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Lexington Knocking Tobacco Out of the Park

Navan Rajagopalan, Flickr

A Kentucky city is knocking tobacco out of the park, quite literally. All ballparks in Lexington including the home of the Lexington Legends minor league baseball team are becoming completely tobacco-free.

Team CEO Andy Shea says Major League Baseball has made great strides in severing the link between America's Greatest Pastime and tobacco, and he's proud to be one of the first minor league facilities to step up to the plate.

"The more we can help to get it out of sight and then out of mind with younger kids and that it doesn't have to be - it shouldn't be - a rite of passage for baseball anymore," he explains. "Slowly but surely, I think, baseball is getting there."

Tobacco is banned at half of Major League Baseball parks, and the league prohibits new players from using tobacco. Nearly 15 years ago, Lexington was the first Kentucky city to enact a smoke-free ordinance, which Mayor Jim Gray says has improved public health.

The ban announced today includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and electronic cigarettes.

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than 10 percent of high school students in Kentucky used smokeless tobacco in 2017, which is nearly twice as high as the national rate. As a former smokeless tobacco user, Shea is hopeful banning the product at ballparks will have a positive impact on kids.

"I think everyone pretty much knows that smoking cigarettes is not good for you," he states. "But I don't think that some people realize how bad smokeless tobacco is. So really, tobacco is tobacco, and it's not healthy for you no matter how you're taking it, no matter how often you take it, or do it or whatever the case may be."

Health experts say snuff and chewing tobacco can cause gum disease and tooth loss as well as various cancers. The products also raise the heart rate and blood pressure, which can increase the risk for heart attacks and brain damage from a stroke.

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