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. chew

    Chew all you want! Nothing wrong with it. Everyone has their own choice to chew or not and if you have a problem with kids doing a parent don't let your kid chew.

    October 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. brian

    Chewing is part of baseball as it is in hockey you won't or can't stop it. As a h.s. ball player and in warm ups in hockey i would take dip and mix it w gum theres ways around it as there is with everything..... what another bs article on cnn's behalf why don't you report on how this current administration is furthering the destruction of hard working americans and how were going to turn things around as a country in 2012!

    October 19, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. The Cubs

    We suck!

    October 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Action Jackson

    Somebody please think of the children!

    October 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. grow up please

    Ban tobacco? This is setting a bad example for our children? LOL, and let me guess the way that congress conducts their business is a great example for our children. Please, this is just ridiculous. I happen to agree with their statement but its not the senate's place to say this. How about MLB stand up and put a ban in the workplace on tobacco products. Congress please worry about and correct your own behavior before you start telling another business on how to conduct theirs. Thanks

    October 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kenny

    Now this clearly demostrates that members of congress can work together. If Republicans can come together to try to stop baseball players from chewing, they can definitly come together to stem the flow of jobs from America to the rest of the world. Now I do think this is an important issue for health reasons but until the comes when Congress votes to confirm the Commissioner of Baseball, I am of the opinion they should let the players play ball and they should stick to playing Comgressmen/women. From what I have seen, they need a good bit of work least they find themselves shipped off to the minors (State Houses & Senates) to develope better work skills.

    October 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • ronjon

      Are you aware that they are playing on field named for Beer? Tobacco can kill you over a life time – alcohol can kill you and others on just one bad day.

      October 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jim

    Sure would be easy to NOT show such behavior on the TV, saves everyone the trouble and keeps the nanny state at bay.

    October 19, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. ronjon

    Democrat Social police want tobacco banned while playing at Busch Stadium. Don't think it can get any dumber than that. To help from their withdrawal from tobacco, just knock down a few beers between innings like the Red Sox.

    October 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Joe Smith

    How about Senator Durbin sending a request to musicians and rappers to stop promoting drug use in their lyrics? Many children are influence by the lyrics of songs. That might be a more pressing issue than tobacco.

    October 19, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steve C.

    I agree this is something for discussion. But, to expect these players to stop it during such an important series is ludicrous. It is totally unfair to the players to force this on short notice during the most important event of their careers.

    October 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tommy

    For that matter, how about we start with a "Real role model"; ban Barack Obama from smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. Call it "Bong Hits for Barack".

    October 19, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. satan

    FREE PARENTING TEMPLATE: Hey little [insert child's name], you see those ADULTS on tv using tobacco? Well, when you're an adult you can make an adult decision to use tobacco too! Until then, if I catch you using tobacco- there will be consequences.

    See how easy that was! No need to involve our senators, who (you would think) have more pressing matters to attend to (like our economy, energy, etc.).

    October 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • lolmac

      spot on

      October 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. brett

    its home of the free only based upon what others think our freedoms should be. they should put laws through, but maybe ask the players to be aware of the audience and the influence they have over our youth.

    October 19, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ron

    This so called "Goverment" keeps sending the same message to "the hands that feed them". You are an idiot and we know what is better for your children than you do!

    October 19, 2011 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. whyowhy

    If the argument is that when the camera pans the dugout you see players chewing and spitting toabacco juice and that is bad for kids to see and they may want to chew tobacco. Then stop panning the stands they could potentially see beer being served and now they little 9 year old will want a beer? Or better yet stop serving beer in the stands. NOT!! Ball players are not role models they are ball players.

    October 19, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
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