Here’s a great
story from the L.A. Times exploring the culture of chewing tobacco in baseball.
San Francisco recently banned chewing tobacco at all ballparks, including AT&T (to take effect next year), while both the city of L.A. and the state of California are considering similar bans.
The issue of chew in baseball has become more high-profile in the past year or so because of the death last year of Hall of Famer
Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer. On top of that, pitcher Curt Schilling battled oral cancer in the past year. Schilling blames chew for his cancer, as did Gwynn.
The Los Angeles Times focused on how, despite being banned by the NCAA, chewing tobacco remains persistently part of the game on the field.
From the article:
Coaches said they address tobacco with their players before every season.
“You also bring it up throughout the season,” UCLA Coach John Savage said, “but it’s not a daily reminder.”
Cal State Northridge Coach Greg Moore said, “We educate them constantly and talk about their choices.” But, he added, “I know that me saying smokeless tobacco is unhealthy is not going to get a guy to change his habit.”
Weirdly enough, a lot of ballplayers ONLY use chew on the baseball field.
College players said they were aware of the risks of using tobacco products.
Still, Cal State Northridge infielder William Colantono began to dip as a young member of a mostly older varsity high school team. “Being around them, I picked it up,” he said. “Not that I’m proud of it.”
Colantono said that while most of his summer league teammates used smokeless tobacco, only “a handful” of his Northridge teammates do, and they partake off the field.
“It’s easy for me not to have to do it on the field,” he said. “I’m not crazy about it where I have to have it all the time.”
The story has some interesting stats about chew use among collegiate players. Incredibly, it is near 50 percent. The rate is dropping, but only after a pretty big upward spike recently.
Results of the NCAA’s most recent quadrennial survey of about 21,000 college athletes from all sports showed that tobacco use by college baseball players was decreasing. The 2013 results, released last July in a report titled, “NCAA National Study of Substance Abuse Habits of College Student-Athletes,” showed a drop in “spit” tobacco use since 2009.
In 2005, the overall percentage of acknowledged use in the previous 12 months was 42.5%. It climbed to 52.3% in 2009, but dropped to 47.2% in 2013 — though that’s still nearly half of the players in a sport in which it is banned.
Wow, 47 percent. That’s insane, when you figure fewer than 10 percent of kids their age smoke and probably fewer than 20 percent use e-cigs.
What can be done to break the culture’s hold? It won’t be easy. It was damned difficult to break the culture of smoking, it took 50 years of work since the U.S. Surgeon General’s report on lung cancer and that work isn’t finished. I wish I fully understand the connection between baseball and chew, but I honestly scratch my head at it. I simply do not fully get it. Maybe they need to post photos of Tony Gwynn’s last few months in locker rooms.
Would THIS get young ballplayers to quit chewing tobacco?
Like the story says:
Sal Colangelo, longtime manager of the Bethesda (Md.) Big Train in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League, said he attempts to educate players, but for some “it’s a way of life.”
“You go into their trucks and there are cases and cases of tobacco and dip,” he said. “It’s like a 7-Eleven.”