LOS ANGELES (CNS) — The Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban the use of chewing tobacco at city parks and all organized sports venues in Los Angeles, including Dodger Stadium.
The ban — approved Tuesday, Jan. 26 — is aimed at preventing professional athletes from using chewing tobacco, and potentially influencing their often young fans into also adopting the habit.
“We wanted to make sure that our young people, and all people who look at our sports figures as heroes, do not get a bad impression when they see them using smokeless tobacco,” said Councilmember Jose Huizar, who authored the measure.
The ordinance — approved on a 14-0 vote — prohibits the use of smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, at stadiums, fields and
other venues where organized sports are played, as well as city parks.
The ban affects not only professional sports venues, but also sites where amateur events organized by youth, school, park and other groups are held.
The ban also applies to city parks throughout the city, even when there is no organized sports event taking place. The city will need to post up signs informing the public of the prohibition.
Any violations of the ban would be treated as an infraction.
There are exceptions to the ban at designated areas of some parks where smoking is also allowed, such as at some golf courses, the Autry National Center, the Greek Theater and the Los Angeles Zoo, and when its use is allowed under a filming permit.
“I look forward to the new signage, and the education and the awareness effort so that families across this city understand the dangers of tobacco products and the responsibility to keep them out of our parks,” Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell said.
The ordinance must be signed by the mayor before it can be enacted. City leaders expect that the ban will go into effect before the start of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season in April.
A bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed last October, banning chewing tobacco at major league baseball parks, is expected to go into effect in December.
Supporters of chewing tobacco say the state law lacks teeth, though it does ban professional baseball players from using chewing tobacco on the field, dugouts and bullpen at all professional sports stadiums in the state.
San Francisco and Boston already prohibit smokeless tobacco at all organized sports venues.
“As the third city in the country to finalize this policy, you’re propelling us forward to the day when the league and the players do what they should have done years ago and eliminate tobacco from the game of baseball,” said Kevin O’Flaherty with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
“Three great cities, three iconic teams,” O’Flaherty said. “Today we move closer to what is now a very surmountable goal — getting our national pastime free of this addiction, a healthier game, with healthier kids who no longer associate with their heroes of tobacco use of any kind.”
Dr. Jonathan Fielding, a UCLA professor and former director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said cities have had to adopt such bans “because the players in general, the player’s association, has not been supportive of this kind of a ban.”
Fielding added that he does not understand why players “would in fact oppose something that they know could improve the lives of so many and prevent so many from being addicted or dying from the forms of cancer this can create.”
“I hope this propels them to think differently and to say, ‘You know what? It’s not just a question of individual choice. It is our responsibility as idols as the heroes of these young people not to give them the bad habits that we have,’” he said.
Huizar said the Dodgers has been supportive of the city’s efforts to restrict chewing tobacco use, though the team’s management still needed the players’ buy-in.
Huizar said chewing tobacco, which is linked to cancer, affects not only ballplayers, but also young people who emulate their sports idols.
Huizar said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that high school athletes use smokeless tobacco at nearly twice the rate of non-athletes.
Smokeless tobacco use among athletes increased from 2001 to 2013, even as smoking rates dropped dramatically during the same period, according to the report.
Smokeless tobacco use among male high school athletes was at 17.4 percent in 2013, according to Huizar’s office.
Smokeless tobacco contains cancer-causing chemicals, is linked to oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancer as well as other mouth-related health problems, and could result in nicotine addiction, Huizar said.