LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 3, 2018) — City ball fields in Lexington, as well as Whitaker Bank Ballpark where the Lexington Legends play, are now tobacco-free.
Mayor Jim Gray and Legends CEO Andy Shea were joined by Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky CEO Ben Chandler this morning to announce the new policies, joining a nationwide movement to break the longstanding connection between baseball and smokeless tobacco.
“Almost 15 years ago, Lexington became the first city in the state to enact a smoke-free ordinance,” said Mayor Jim Gray. “The results were almost immediate, with fewer smoking related emergency room visits and a better quality of life. This new tobacco-free policy at Whitaker Bank Ballpark and our city-owned and operated ball fields is a logical next step.”
“We are very proud to be one of the first Minor League Baseball facilities in the country to go tobacco-free,” said Andy Shea, president and CEO of the Lexington Legends. “Being one of the premiere family entertainment options in the region, we felt this move had to be made. We are honored to lead the way in making the Central Kentucky community a healthier and happier place to live.”
The bulge of tobacco in a player’s cheek is less common in professional baseball today than in the past, thanks to an ongoing campaign led by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Half of Major League Baseball parks are now tobacco-free, and the MLB collective bargaining agreement prohibits new players – including those in minor league teams such as the Lexington Legends – from using tobacco.
But many players grandfathered into the agreement and others associated with the game still use dip, snuff, chew, and other products, as do their fans. Prohibiting tobacco use in city ballparks and during Legends’ games will further send the message that baseball and tobacco do not go hand-in-hand, health advocates say.
“Lexington is sending a powerful message to young players looking to emulate their hometown baseball idols,” said Chandler. “Most tobacco use starts in the teen years, so youth prevention efforts like this are very effective in reducing tobacco use and, over the long term, improving health in Kentucky. We encourage other Kentucky cities and counties to follow Lexington’s example.”
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has been working with professional baseball for several years to sever the link between baseball and smokeless tobacco use through its Knock Tobacco Out Of The Park program.