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Snuffing Out Smoking

City ban hits chaw at sports sites

Tobacco took a hit on March 16 when the Chicago City Council upped the city’s smoking age to 21, tacked a $6 million tax on cigars, roll-your own tobacco and smokeless tobacco, and placed a ban on “chewing tobacco” at sports stadiums. The sweeping anti-smoking ordinance is key to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s agenda to drive the teen smoking rate down to 10.7%, and achieving what he calls the “attainable goal” of creating a “tobacco-free generation.” “Chicago has one of the lowest teen smoking rates—not only in history, but in the country. This is an important step,” the mayor said.

On March 11, in a prelude to passing the wide ranging smoking ordinance, the City Council Finance Committee unanimously endorsed the prohibition of the use of chewing tobacco at baseball games and other sporting events. The unanimous vote came after U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin pressed aldermen to “finally knock tobacco out of the ballpark”—a take on a phrase used by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Adding testimony for snuffing out smokeless tobacco was CMS President, Kathy M. Tynus, MD, who provided details to the committee.

“It’s not just smoking that poses a serious threat,” Dr. Tynus said. “Make no mistake: Smokeless tobacco is a dangerous, addictive product that causes cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses.” The CMS president further pointed out that smokeless tobacco has nearly 30 cancer-causing chemicals that cause various types of cancer and other health hazards—and can lead to nicotine addiction.

Dr. Tynus, who is also an outpatient-based primary care internist at Northwestern Medicine, provided additional “red flags” about smokeless tobacco:

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program have concluded that smokeless tobacco is a known human carcinogen. IARC has concluded that smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer, which can require disfiguring surgery, and pancreatic cancer, which is an especially deadly form of cancer.

Smokeless tobacco use also has significant cardiovascular effects, and has been linked to fatal heart attacks. Some studies have also linked smokeless tobacco use to adverse reproductive outcomes during pregnancy, including preeclampsia, premature birth, and low birth-weight.

Smokeless tobacco use is associated with pre-cancerous lesions in the mouth or leukoplakia, gum recession and disease of the gums, and tooth decay.

Dr. Tynus emphasized there is reason to worry that smokeless tobacco use by young persons may serve as a gateway to cigarette smoking, this nation’s leading preventable cause of premature death and disease. “We are not just talking about a harmless habit or something that all ballplayers do. We’re talking about the use of a deadly and destructive product that has no place in kids’ lives and no place in baseball.”

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