Campaign working to snuff out smokeless tobacco use at ballparks

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- San Francisco and Boston have recently banned smokeless tobacco use at all sports venues, and Los Angeles is expected to soon. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids would like to see a ban in all major league cities including Kansas City.

Starting next season, Madison Bumgarner (Remember him, Royals' fans?) won't be able to use smokeless tobacco in his home ball park in San Francisco. Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling pushed for the ban in Boston. He's convinced that his mouth cancer was caused by chewing tobacco.

"It doesn't belong here at little league fields. It doesn't belong in big league parks," said Schilling.

It doesn't belong, he and others argue, when people such as San Diego Padres' great Tony Gwynn have died of the effects.

They're concerned, too, about new research showing smokeless tobacco use by teens, including teen athletes, is rising.

Kimber Richter, a tobacco treatment specialist at the University of Kansas Hospital, thinks Kansas City should have a ban, too.

"Millions of kids are watching this and thinking that this is maybe a cool thing to do. I think it's just a shame and completely unnecessary. Why can't we hit it out of the park in terms of tobacco policy?" said Richter.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids wanted Major League Baseball to institute a ban specifically on players' use, but the players' union balked, saying it's an individual rights issue. So the campaign is now focusing on getting city-wide bans at sports venues.

Baseball fan Val Sy is against such a ban.

"It's the user's personal responsibility. They're not bothering anyone with second-hand smoke. It's just their choice to chew tobacco," Sy said.

He says the adults in kids' lives should teach them that chewing or dipping, even if ballplayers do it, is not cool.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says it has not had specific communication with Kansas City Council members about a possible ban. Mayor Sly James' office says the issue is not one he's considered yet.