Senators push for tobacco ban on players during World Series
San Francisco Giants player Mark DeRosa takes a pinch of smokeless tobacco during warmups.
October 19th, 2011
10:09 AM ET

Senators push for tobacco ban on players during World Series

A group of senators is urging Major League Baseball to use the World Series as a chance to step up and change a fairly recognizable scene at baseball stadiums: a group of players in the dugout chomping on chew and spitting tobacco juice.

Not only is it unhealthy, the senators said, but it sends the wrong message to children who look up to the players.

Baseball's smokeless tobacco problem

"An expected 15 million viewers, including many children, will tune in to watch the first game of the series," Sen. Dick Durbin and other senators said in a letter to the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. "Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products."

It's a scene that's caught often on TV, as a camera pans the field during batting practice or the dugout during the game: Some players chew gum, others spit out sunflower seed shells, and others spit out tobacco juice. With the first game of the World Series set for Wednesday night, the senators are trying to use that national platform to urge players to opt for the sunflower seeds rather than the tobacco.

Sens. Durbin, Frank Lautenberg, Richard Blumenthal and Tom Harkin, who is the Senate Health Committee chairman, said the World Series is such a big stage that it would be a good opportunity to right a wrong as well as set a good example.

The senators cited the 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which showed a 36% increase in use of smokeless tobacco products among boys in high school since 2003. The survey also showed that 15% of high school boys now use the products.

"When players use smokeless tobacco, they endanger not only their own health, but also the health of millions of children who follow their example," they said in a letter.

Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, echoed that sentiment wholeheartedly.

“Major League Baseball and the players union should follow the senators’ leadership and get smokeless tobacco out of the game,” Myers said in a press release.  “The calls for tobacco-free baseball have come from hundreds of diverse voices that have grown louder over the course of the 2011 season. Now it is time for baseball to act to protect the health of current players and millions of kids who look up to them.”

The senators had earlier in the year petitioned MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to ban tobacco in the major leagues, as the minor leagues already have.

"It is time for the players to take the lead and support extending this policy throughout MLB," the senators wrote.

Selig has said that he intends to propose the ban as a part of the players' new contracts next year.

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Filed under: Baseball • Sports
soundoff (842 Responses)
  1. Barry G.

    I'm pleasantly surprised, considering the tobacco industry’s lobbying dollars and our legislators' insatiable desire for money.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Xenon77

    Once more the government steps in! Why can't there be education and change through consensus among the players.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. IHopper

    Works for me. Imagine a world where men (and women!) don't have black teeth and dribble down their chins... Nice.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dirk Diggler

      I like women dripping down their chins THANK YOU VERY MUCH

      October 19, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. palintwit

    If elected, Christine O'Donnell had plans to ban masturbation in Delaware. Residents would have had to cross the state line.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. MachoMan

    Chew is bad.
    OH YEAH
    Wait, I'm dead!
    OH NO!

    October 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. evan

    Good example of one of the many reasons people are protesting in every city in this country right now. Most of us US Citizens don't give a GD about this, yet these people that are supposed to be representing us are busy with crap like this... amazing. Keep pulling this crap and soon those protests will be riots, and they'll be right outside these senators homes.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Can't Understand Senators

    Why don't these Senators stop worrying about the players personal freedoms and instead do something about the times that the games start at? The average child that they are supposedly trying to protect can't even watch these games on television because they will end too late. If they really cared about kids they would force the leagues to play weekend day games in the playoffs as well as starting the night games at 7pm. A whole generation of baseball fans have been lost because no east coast child can stay up late enough to watch these playoff games.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Emily

      They dont want the kids to start the bad habit. These athletes get paid a lot of money. A LOT of kids look up to these guys! Whether they can watch the full game or not they are still setting a bad example! It needs to end!

      October 19, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lazy Ike

      Excellent point! And shouldn't they be more concerned about showing the fans eating the hot dogs, burgers, and soda sold at the game? I believe obesity kills more Americans than smokeless tobacco.

      October 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lazy Ike

      Emily,
      I understand your concern, but I don't feel like it is the Federal government's job to try and steer my kids in the "right" direction. If they were that concerned about my child's health, they would board up all fast-food. But again, it's my job to raise my kids, not theirs.

      October 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • usstrong

      What about people getting the *hit kicked out of them at stadiums? Yeah lets worry about players chewing tobacco. How about parents are parents and not athletes!!!! Stupid. It is their choice.

      October 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ProperVillain

    Once again the PC and nanny state crowds have run amok. Seriously, if you don't know this is bad for you by now no amount of legislation will stop you from doing yourself harm. It is a enormous waste of time for any politician to spend even a second on something as dimwitted as this. There are bigger fish to fry here. Unemployment is at an all time high, who the hell cares if some baseball players take some chew? This smacks of trying to win party points in the upcoming election. Pathetic.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. citizen

    Classic.... filthy rich actors attacking other filthy rich.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kevin

    Anyone wonder why the Congressional approval rating hovers around 10-15%? Let's just outlaw any potentially harmful substance because obviously we can't be trusted without their enlightened insight on how to live our lives. And while we're at it, let's just outlaw free will!

    October 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lazy Ike

      That's exactly what they're doing, trying to outlaw free will.

      October 19, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Andrew

    Why don't the senators do their job and fix the country and let people's personal choices be their choices. If you have that much of a problem don't watch baseball.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Cajunman

    Why don't they worry about the financial crisis, the homeless, the things that really count. Stop trying to make a perfect world since perfection does not exist.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Willy Brown

    More feel good crap from the progressive party. Why don't you work on something important like a budget?

    October 19, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Bob

    For the love god!! Stay out of our lives already. Congress needs to stay out of this. Partents, if you have a problem talk to your kids. Stop being part of the F'ing problem and part of the solution so our government won't feel the need to step in everytime a child does something wrong. You are ruining it for everyone else who is "RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS"

    October 19, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • debbie

      100% agree! Tough crap if something thinks it's unsightly – then be a basketball fan. If only the government could do what we pay them to do and stop sitting around thinking about ways to tick us off!

      October 19, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hmmm...

    I'd rather watch a man with a job and paying taxes chewing tobaco than paying a group of senators to focus on peoples legal personal habits while our unemployment rate is @ 9.1% and those senators are paid with tax payer dollars which pay for their , sometimes illegal and ugly, personal habits.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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