April 28 2010 12:00 AM

Ban chew in baseball

Tobacco use has always been a part of baseball, but it’s time to break the habit. While baseball players are banned from publicly smoking cigarettes while in uniform, they can use smokeless tobacco. Fortunately, Congress has called for MLB to extend its ban during games to smokeless tobacco products.

Research indicates that more than one in three major league baseball players use smokeless tobacco.

Young kids look up to athletes as role models and when they are spotted with a lip full of tobacco and a tin in their pocket, it sends the wrong message.

Tobacco use is prevalent among our youth. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 13 percent of high school boys and 2 percent of high school girls have used some form of smokeless tobacco.

Strong role models can help change this behavior. The MLB should step up to the minor league players’ plate. The lower minor leagues banned chewing tobacco 19 years ago. Two years later, they extended it to all minor leagues. Players and managers are subject to a $300 fine if caught using on the field or at any minor league facility.

Tobacco use causes gum recession, gum disease and oral cancer, which results in 8,000 deaths per year in the United States.There is also evidence that tobacco may be linked to increased risks for heart disease, diabetes and reproductive problems.

Smokeless tobacco products contain 28 toxic and cancer-causing agents, including formaldehyde, cyanide, butanol, arsenic, polonium-210 and uranium-235 — the same ingredients found in rat poison, radioactive nuclear waste, industrial solvents and embalming fluid. They also contain nicotine, one of the hardest addictions to break.

Tobacco products in baseball should go the way of corked bats and steroids: let’s ban them.

— Dr. Jed Jacobson Chief Science Officer Delta Dental of Michigan