Mayor Walsh on the attack against smokeless tobacco

Who is This flashing a Pouch on the field?
Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

Mayor Martin J. Walsh of Boston is not one to be taken lightly when it comes to aggressive campaigns.

Remember when he was looking into towing players cars in a fight over parking rights behind Fenway Park?

Well Mayor Walsh has a new cause that is one Major League Baseball's players union has been slow to tackle. He is aligning himself with big names like Curt Shilling who appeared with him Wednesday at a city park along with public health officials, local youths and other advocates to announce a new project called Kick Tobacco Out of the Park.

Jake Peavy (Getty Images)
Major news outlets like CBS picked up the story, giving it national attention across the country.

"Our baseball parks are places for creating healthy futures, and this ordinance is about doing the right thing as a community for our young people," Walsh said in a statement ahead of Wednesday's announcement. "The consequences of smokeless tobacco are real, and we must do all that we can to set an example."

Shilling, who is as well known in Boston for his exploits on the field as for his recent fight with mouth cancer he associates with his chewing tobacco usage said in a statement, "I have seen cancer take the lives of people very important to me like my father, a lifelong smoker, and I have endured the insufferable agony of radiation to the head/neck, if this law stops just one child from starting, it's worth the price."
Not just the players are involved...

Mayor Walsh will officially file an ordinance with the City County next Monday.

The ordinance will ban smokeless tobacco or any other tobacco product at event sites for professional, collegiate, high school or organized amateur sporting events, including baseball, softball, football, basketball, hockey, track and field, field hockey, lacrosse, and soccer. Smokeless tobacco refers to any product that contains cut, ground, powdered or leaf tobacco and is intended to be placed in the oral or nasal cavity. Any person found in violation will be fined $259 per offense. Following the enactment of the proposed ordinance, it will become effective on April 1.

"Boston's action today sends a loud and powerful message that it is time to break the harmful link between baseball and tobacco," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said.
David Ortiz

The Boston Globe's Kay Lazer reported that a consortium of health groups lobbied unsuccessfully in 2011 to rid baseball of smokeless tobacco, as the league negotiated a new labor agreement with its players union. That agreement included some limits, but the union opted not to ban tobacco entirely. Players can’t carry tobacco packages in their uniform pockets, and tobacco use during televised interviews is prohibited.

The health groups tried a second time with the baseball players union, asking it to ban smokeless tobacco after Schilling disclosed his cancer last year that he believes can be attributed to chewing tobacco use.

When that failed, the consortium devised a new strategy, bringing its fight to each major league city, with San Francisco the first stop.

"Major League Baseball players have given the tobacco industry hundreds of thousands of dollars of free advertising, because everyone wants to be just like their heroes on the field,” said Myers.

Jonny Gomes
Cigarette smoking in the US has been on the decline while chewing tobacco among the youth has remained steady since 1999. The Surgeon General and the National Cancer Institute say smokeless tobacco contains at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals that can lead to oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer and other health problems like mouth lesions and tooth decay.

If approved, Boston would become the second U.S. city, behind San Francisco, to ban chewing tobacco and related products from ballfields. Los Angeles is considering a similar proposal, but it is focused solely on baseball and does not impact other sports.

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