By NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi’s newly enacted ban on adult smoking at youth sporting events reflects nationwide concern about both primary smoking and second-hand smoke’s health impact – and the influence on both children and adolescents.
The Mississippi ban, which begins July 1, comes with a financial bite for violations: Legislation would ban smoking within 100 feet of a facility where youth under age 18 are participating in athletic events, prohibit smoking at any indoor youth sporting events, and impose $75 penalties for second offenses and $150 fines for later violations.
The bill does not ban smokeless tobacco products at youth events, a flaw that leaves a big loophole for tobacco because many Mississippians who don’t smoke use smokeless products filled with nicotine and other harmful substances.
It has the same addictive impact on users, and it can cause many of the same diseases linked to smoking and second-hand smoke.
The bill does allow a designated smoking area “separate from the fields of activity” but those should be placed at distance where smoke does not reach other spectators or athletes.
Roy Hart, director of the Office of Tobacco Control, commenting on the smokeless product use, said, the law is “a step in the right direction,” noting that 550 Mississippians die each year from secondhand smoke.
“However, a comprehensive tobacco-free policy that includes spit tobacco would be even more effective,” he noted.
In addition, Major League Baseball and its players could bring influence to bear by banning smokeless tobacco product use as smoking has been banned. Smokeless tobacco is officially banned in the minor leagues, but no movement has been seen in the majors.
Less than a month ago, at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, its leaders called on baseball and its players to stop chewing, dipping and using similar products during games.
Energy for pursuing the bans was provided indirectly by a recent study published in a major pediatrics journal. It showed that in towns with strong smoking bans, children and adolescents are less likely to begin smoking, one of the general goals in the anti-tobacco movement.
Smoking cigarettes while in uniform and in view of the public is not allowed in the majors, and smokeless tobacco has been banned in the minors since 1993.
Scientific evidence about the harm done by tobacco in all forms is beyond dispute.
When an opportunity arises to dissuade the next generation of potential smokers and users, responsible adults should seize it. Even nicotine addicts usually know they’re killing themselves. If not for themselves then ban it for the kids.