Kids Sports News Network

Chew: A Little League Favorite

Big League Chew

Baseball players with cans of chew in the pockets on the field or a wad in their mouth promote the continued use of spit tobacco, a habit which starts as young as little league.  In light of Tony Gwynn’s untimely death at age 54, many think the MLB should ban spit tobacco on the field all together.  Little League should take more responsibility as well in educating on the dangers of smokeless tobacco.

9 million people in the U.S. use smokeless tobacco and it doesn’t start in the major leagues. 46% of new users are younger than 18 years old. While the statistics of youth use is seemingly small, any use should be alarming as we are well aware of the addictive nature and health risks associated with tobacco use. 11% of male high school students and 1.5% of female high school students have used smokeless tobacco. Even more alarming, 2% of boys and 1% of girls in middle school have already tried chew.

While flavorings are not allowed in cigarettes, smokeless tobacco can taste more like candy with flavors like vanilla, mint and fruit. Not a far cry from smokeless tobacco, is Little League staple: Big League Chew. Introduced in 1980 by Portland Maverick’s left-handed pitcher Rob Nelson and New York Yankee’s All-Star Jim Bouton, Big League Chew is a bubblegum shredded and packaged in an aluminum foil pouch imitating actual smokeless tobacco. The original slogan still featured today is: “You’re in the big leagues when you’re into Big League Chew!” We can’t expect a kid, who goes through a pouch of shredded gum in a week when he’s 11, to be content blowing bubbles in the dug out as an adult.

In acknowledgement that professional athletes influence kids, MLB owners and the MLB Players Association agreed to make its use in the game less obvious. Beginning with the 2012 season, players are no longer allowed to keep a can of chew in their back pockets or any other part of their uniforms during the course of the game or while fans are in the stadium. Additionally, they can’t have tobacco in their mouths during television interviews or while signing autographs. It is a start in the effort to curb the appeal of tobacco use to kids, but the agreement stopped short of banning the product from the game. Thus, players can still be seen using the products during the game.


Author: Melanie Carbine

Melanie Carbine has degrees in English Literature and Math Education from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. She has lived in various parts of the world including Micronesia and the United States.  She currently writes for several education blogs, vlogs about her travels, and teaches middle school in the DC Metro Area.


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  2. Max West

    August 10, 2015 at 2:33 am

    I should point out that Big League Chew was created as an ALTERNATIVE in lieu of chewing tobacco, not as something to get people started on it.

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