Send smokeless tobacco to the penalty box

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Spit tobacco, chew, snuff, snus, pinch or dip- you can call chewing tobacco by whatever name you want but don’t call it harmless. Smokeless tobacco products have become increasingly popular amongst Ontario’s young athletes, especially in sports such as baseball and hockey. These products consist of tobacco or a tobacco blend that’s chewed, sucked on or sniffed, rather than smoked.  Smokeless Tobacco is easily hidden in the cheek, gums, inner surface of the lips or even between the toes in a hockey skate, making it seemingly impossible to notice while playing sports.

Some athletes use chewing tobacco, or other types of smokeless tobacco, because they think smokeless it is a safe alternative to cigarettes. In reality, chewing tobacco can cause serious health problems. Nicotine is the main ingredient of concern in smokeless tobacco. It is estimated that a normal, 30-minute dip of smokeless tobacco delivers the same amount of nicotine as 3-4 cigarettes. Nicotine affects the brain and central nervous system while altering one’s ability to concentrate and remain alert. If nicotine wasn’t bad enough, there is a cocktail of other harmful chemicals associated with smokeless tobacco including: polonium 210 (nuclear waste), formaldehyde (embalming fluid), and arsenic. According to the American Cancer Society, chewing tobacco users are 50 times more likely than non-users to get cancers of the cheek, gums, and inner surface of the lips.

Since baseball became a professional sport in the mid-19th century, players and coaches have been tucking tobacco between their gums and cheeks and spitting out brown saliva.  In November of 2011, Major League Baseball took a stand against this addiction and announced it would no longer allow the use of chewing tobacco when fans are present. If athletes choose to use these products, they must conceal it at all times.

As this old addiction has become increasingly popular with our young athletes again, there is not a more suitable time to adopt your team’s or organization’s own Tobacco-Free policy.  To find out how, contact Hamilton Public Health Services Tobacco Hotline at 905-540-5566, or visit


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