Restrict chewing tobacco use at Toronto sporting events, councillor urges

A Toronto city councillor is going to ask the board of health to study the impact of restricting chewing tobacco use at professional and amateur sporting facilities.

Joe Mihevc says chewing tobacco is 'terribly unhealthy' and on the rise in Ontario

Toronto's skipper says he used tobacco for many years and doesn't want to see children start using it. 0:18

If a Toronto city councillor has his way, there will be little chewing tobacco at Blue Jays games at the Rogers Centre.

Coun. Joe Mihevc says he believes the city should restrict the use of chewing tobacco at major Toronto sporting events.

Mihevc says he plans to bring forward a motion on the issue at the March 21 board of health meeting.

That motion will ask the medical officer of health to report on "possible municipal actions" to restrict chewing tobacco use at professional and amateur sports facilities. The city would look at the impacts of a ban and how it could be imposed.

"While chewing tobacco has long been part of the culture of many professional sports, especially baseball, research shows that it has very real and serious health consequences," Mihevc said. 

"We need to be at the forefront of the movement to restrict its use and join with major cities such as L.A., Boston and New York. This is a North American-wide effort."

The councillor said chewing tobacco is "terribly unhealthy" and on the rise in Ontario. A survey of Ontario student drug use and health in 2015 found that six per cent of Ontario students in grade seven to 12 use smokeless tobacco, or nearly 60,000 students. 

Mihevc said he would like to see it banned at schools, rinks, baseball diamonds and soccer fields. 

"We want to break the link between smokeless tobacco and young people in sports. The role of professional athletes in supporting this move is an important piece here," he said.

The motion is designed to dispel the idea that smokeless tobacco is a cool thing to consume, he said.
A Toronto councillor wants the city to restrict chewing tobacco use on the field, in dugouts and in the stands at major sporting events in the city. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Blue Jays pitcher all for ban

Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he supports such a ban.

"Tobacco is a nasty habit. I did it for a long, long time. Not proud of that. And whatever they can do to get rid of it, especially eliminate kids from doing any of that, hey, I'm all for it," he said.

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Pat Venditte calls it a "terrible habit."

"We all have our vices. I'm just happy I don't do it," he said.

Anti-smoking advocates also support the motion, saying professional athletes act as role models for young people.

"When a major league baseball player is seen chewing tobacco anywhere, his young followers and fans immediately assume that this is a good thing to do," Michael Perley, director of the Ontario Campaign for Action on Tobacco, told reporters.

Joanne di Nardo, senior manager of public issues for Canadian Cancer Society, said: "We know that tobacco products are dangerously addictive and it is crucial to reach kids before they go down a path that is hazardous to their health."
A Toronto councillor says chewing tobacco is 'terribly unhealthy' and on the rise in Ontario. (CBC)

Linked to tooth decay, disease

Liam Doherty, an amateur baseball player in Toronto, said a ban would protect young athletes.

"It impacts on us kids because we think that's right but it's actually not. It could really hurt us and you can get lung cancer."

Chewing tobacco is declared a "known human carcinogen" by the U.S. National Toxicology Program. Health officials say it has been associated with tooth decay and can lead to nicotine addiction.


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