The Boston Public Health Commission Reaches Out to the MLB

Posted on March 29, 2011


Those who know Boston, know there is no better sports town in the country.  We are a group of loyal and devoted fans no matter what team we root for. And as Fenway prepares for opening day, the Boston Public Health Commission, along with 15 other MLB cities, have requested that a baseball pastime be banned from Major league baseball games.

Barbara Ferrar, executive director of the BPHC, and fourteen other health officials have sent a letter to the MLB requesting that the use of tobacco products, including chewing tobacco, be prohibited at all Major League Baseball games.  In a letter to the MLB, health officials wrote “we know that baseball is important to civic life and that ballplayers are local heroes. They should provide positive role models and not associate themselves with a product that causes disease and death”.

Chewing tobacco, also known as smokeless tobacco, kills 400,000 people each year. Like cigarettes, it contains nicotine which is absorbed through the lining of the mouth. There are an additional 30 cancer –causing substances in chewing tobacco, and long term use can lead to serious health problems. Below is a list of health problems associated with chewing tobacco (Mayo Clinic):

Addiction: Just like cigarettes, you can also become addicted to chewing tobacco because of the nicotine. Even when the chew is taken out of the mouth, the nicotine continues to be absorbed Those who are addicted often face withdrawal symptoms such intense cravings, increased appetite, irritability and depressed mood. The more you addicted you become the harder it is to quit, may people turn to alternatives such as using more often, exchanging for brands with higher nicotine levels, and even leaving chew in their mouths overnight.

Cancer: Your risk of certain types of cancer increases if you use chewing tobacco or other types of smokeless tobacco. This includes esophageal cancer and various types of oral cancer, including cancers of your mouth, throat, cheek, gums, lips and tongue. Surgery to remove cancer from any of these areas can leave your jaw, chin, neck or face disfigured, and the cancer may be life-threatening. You also face increased risks related to pancreatic cancer and kidney cancer.

Gum Disease: The sugar and irritants in chewing tobacco and other forms of smokeless tobacco can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth in the area of your mouth where you place the chew. Over time you can develop gum disease (gingivitis), which can lead to periodontitis and tooth loss. And like cigarettes, chewing tobacco and other smokeless products can stain your teeth and cause bad breath.

These are just a few of the consequences associated with chewing tobacco. By choosing to prohibit its use during games, Major League baseball would be making large strides in promoting healthy behavior for both its players and fans.

For more information on smokeless tobacco take a look at the National Library of Medicine. You may also call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050 for more resources or if you need help overcoming a tobacco addiction.