The King County Board of Health voted unanimously Thursday to prohibit smokeless tobacco in field and clubhouse areas, which means half of all MLB stadiums now have bans on the habit.
It’s official: The days of using smokeless tobacco for Mariners players and competitors during games at Safeco Field are coming to an end.
At a hearing Thursday afternoon, the King County Board of Health voted unanimously to prohibit smokeless tobacco at professional sports venues countywide — an ordinance that will take effect May 19. The move is in response to health advocates who say the habit among players sets a poor example for fans and young athletes.
“King County and Seattle are sending the right message: Baseball players and other athletes are role models for our nation’s youth, while chewing tobacco is dangerous and should not be an accepted part of sports culture,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in a statement.
More than a handful of Mariners players chew tobacco, sometimes during games.
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A letter to the King County Board of Health and spokeswoman for the team, however, said they are supportive of a ban.
Under the adopted rule, first-time offenses among players would equal a warning, and repeat violators would mean hefty fines. It applies to the field and clubhouse areas.
Beyond King County, the measure marks a milestone for a national effort to eliminate chew, dip and snuff from Major League Baseball altogether.
Now, half of all MLB stadiums, totaling 15, have bans on smokeless tobacco for athletes during games.
The momentum for such bans grew from a troubling statistic among health advocates that shows while cigarette smoking has declined over the years locally and nationally, the number of people who use smokeless tobacco remains relatively stagnant.
The rate has not dropped significantly in King County since 2014, health data shows.
Advocates draw on testimonies from kids who feel slighted by watching their idols chew and emphasize the health dangers of long-term use.
A group of children attended the hearing at the King County Courthouse on Thursday, cheering after the vote and waving handmade signs that together read, “knock tobacco out of the park.”
MLB took a major step of its own to kick the habit recently by including a provision in its latest collective-bargaining agreement that prohibits all new players from dipping on the field or in clubhouses without risk of penalty.
Stadiums in King County — Safeco Field, CenturyLink Field and KeyArena — already prohibit ticket-holders from using smokeless tobacco, as well as marijuana, cigarettes and vaping devices, unless they are in designated areas outside the buildings. Security and event staff typically monitor for violators.