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. Hulk Hogan

    Let me tell you something brother, these baseball players have rights too. They might not have these 21 inch pythons, or millions of children chanting their name, but what they have is a can of chew, brother. And last I checked, in this great Country, that's not illegal. So take your vitamins, drink your milk and say your prayers to the big HULKAMANIC in the sky.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. programmergirl

    Our economy is in shambles, we have problems galore and what are our "hard-working" Congressmen doing? Sticking their noses into something that is NOT part of their jobs! This is ludicrous. They can't pass any jobs-related bills, but they have time to spend on this non-issue??? Get back to doing your actual JOBS, senators!

    October 19, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • awaysaway

      Yawn! There is always someone who writes this. And it is ridiculous – the USA can only do one thing at a time?

      October 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Deepti

    My 4 year old thinks eating tobacco is a good habit as he loves Baseball and keep watching his favorate players eating tobacco all the time... Its so hard to explain him that its a bad habit to eat tobacco... Lets change our kids vision and give them a health life

    October 19, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimi Hendrix

      I really don't mean to be a jerk.....but, that's great.....ban these ballplayers from yet another personal freedom because you and your 4 year old are STUPID.

      October 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian Wilson

      I don't think anyone should be "eating" chew...that is actually disgusting and I feel for your child. What he should be doing is spitting it out

      October 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bigred

      Perhaps you could do the motherly thing and actually teach your child about the dangers of tobacco, rather than sitting there and letting television do the teaching for you. Take some responsibility lady!

      October 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • scouser

      Why don't you actually do your job, and actually explain to your child the dangers... Its not baseballs players fault you can't do your job...!!

      October 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • awaysaway

      I agree. To the other commentators:
      1. She is doing her job by (a) explaining to her kids that it is bad, and (b) encouraging that it is taken off the TV
      2. It is not a personal freedom issue. These genetic throwbacks are free to give themselves mouth cancer at home and on the streets – we just don't want to pay to watch them or them set an example for our kids. They work for the fans – the fans get to decide how baseball should be.

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

      @JimiHendrix – "I really don't mean to be a jerk"

      October 19, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hawk

      Sounds like it is time to just ban your child from watching anymore baseball. It's not like baseball it required or anything. If the players want to chew – let them...and let the parents keep the tv tuned to something else.

      October 19, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jodi

    is he crazy? all that nicotine withdrawl will lead to some serious bench clearing brawls.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      LOL i thought the same thing! theres a lot to change in this country, i dont think this is one of them.

      October 19, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  5. humtake

    I have an idea for the Senators...STOP WATCHING SPORTS WHEN OUR COUNTRY IS IN SUCH A MESS. Do something constructive. Leisure time is for when you have taken care of your responsibilities...which you definitely haven't!!!

    October 19, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jimi Hendrix

    When are we going to stop acting like people are stupid. Why in the WORLD do we need politician's to tell us what's ok and what isn't ok. Why can't you just teach your kid that smokeless tobacco doesn't make you a good ball player. Teach your kid that smokeless tobacco is harmful to your body, then if they still go ahead and do it, well my friends, that's called free will. QUICK OUTLAW THAT TOO!!!!!!

    Penn Teller said something interesting....let's use some of our intelligence to solve these types of problems with MORE FREEDOM not LESS FREEDOM.

    If you are one of these senators who propose bans of people freedoms for silly reasons like this, you SHOULD BE ASHAMED.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • awaysaway

      They are not banning chewing tobacco. Not even trying to. Not even suggesting they want to. They are simply using their freedom of speech to discourage its display on television. The suggestion is that players remain free to chew tobacco everywhere except "at the office" where we get to pay to watch them and so we get to decide.

      October 19, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Scott

    Yeah, let's suddenly ban tobacco from the series just before it starts! With no notice so that the players don't have time to ween themselves before playing the most stressful games of their lives! Good idea! Not!

    Why aren't you guys working on the economy instead of dreaming up stuff like this?

    October 19, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cletus J. "Bubba" Huckabee Jr.

    Thank you nanny state.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bigred

    The government is utterly broken, the economy is shot, people are protesting in the streets, unemployment is out of control, social security is being mismanaged, and these senators have time to sit down and propose a ban on chewing tobacco for players. Hey senators! Are you aware that you are idiots?

    October 19, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Oh they have lots of time and money!! I mean they had time to investigate steriods in baseball too! They have time to get involved and doing anything but their jobs. Running our country!! Again I will say to Congress... STAY OUT OF OUR LIVES!!! You screwed up the country bad enough, I don't need you stepping in telling me what to do and screwing up my life too!!

      October 19, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jb

    I highly doubt baseball is the reason that more people/kids are chewing. But if it makes people better by blaming baseball then more power to's apparently just one more thing that we feel we have to change in the world today

    October 19, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Steve

    Not to worry....the Senators don't get anything they push for anyway.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. barry

    This is such an important issue which could be easily resolved.
    Each team could simply enact a policy to be tobacco free without impacting the player's contract..
    I bet you no player contract says it is ok to use tobacco on the field or in the dugout.

    Just as they (major league), do not allow alcohol consumption on the field or in the dugout they
    should ban tomacco use.

    Moreover, Major league baseball establishes its own policies.
    I cannot believe they would endorse a bad habit that leads to cancer.
    Let’s see if the major league commissioner has the guts to represent major league by saying NO TO TOBACCO.

    Barry Johnson CRT RCP
    Respiratory Therapist
    American Cancer Ambassador

    October 19, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • BPR

      Hey Barry, why not just let these grown men make their own decisions to put that garbage in their bodies. If children are picking up this behavior because they see their role models doing it, the parents are failing thier children by not teaching them the ill affects of chew. This is not a decision for big brother

      October 19, 2011 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • BPR

      BTW, who says MLB is endorsing their players use of chewing tobacco

      October 19, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Greg

    Doesn't matter... Just like with cigarette commericals being banned, if the senators don't get their way by asking they will use force.

    October 19, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. LDOP

    This is bogus.. The old .. your a pro athlete or super star so you cant have a single bad habit ..

    These guys have the right to if their team allows it. In addition .. Ill be sick if my team looses cus my pitcher who likes his chew is not getting his nicotine and has a nic fit in the game and blows it ..

    October 19, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • LDOP

      oo.. and don't tell me .. he can use the patch or gum etc.. any smoker who is stressed knows the diff ..

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

    "San Francisco Giants player Mark DeRosa takes a pinch of smokeless tobacco during warmups."

    Wow. The Giants are in the WS too. A three way!

    October 19, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
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