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. darthwilson

    Yeah I bet they have no issue with viagra or cialis commercials that are shown 20 a game during commercial breaks!

    October 19, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |


      October 19, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Danny

      I know right! Is tobacco illegal now? Isn't this a form of backdoor prohibition?

      October 19, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      no, it's a form of responsibility....

      October 19, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • BostonRob

      No Rob responsibility is parents teaching their kids not to use tobacco products. We need to stop trying to parent by regulating. If a grown man wants to use a tobacco product he can and please don't bring up the role model argument because a child's #1 role model should be his or her parents.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • jrzydvl

      i love the beer commercials ! Especially the Clydesdales. Those silly horses

      October 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pips

      I would have to agree with the other guy, if they're going for the responsible adult theme, they need to outright ban alcohol commercials as well. Along with all the alcohol banners in the stadiums. It kills far more people per year than chewing tobacco does.

      I'm personally for letting them do whatever they want, it's their choice. But if they're going to do it, they need to be fair about it and target the other drugs.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ....

      No, it's a form of social control. Honestly, growing up I watched tons of baseball players spitting out their tobacco and thought, GROSS. It wasn't something I had to rush out and do. This is just stupid. If kids are so impressionable why don't they hit everyone over the head with a big mallet like they do in cartoons? Also, the Gov't should have NOTHING to do with baseball, why are they distracting from the real issues? Who cares about this subject except some whiny special interest groups? Anyone who thinks this is important, or should get forced down the players throats, is an IDIOT.

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

      Chewing is way more gross than smoking, imo. I do not use tobacco products at all. At least smokers have to go outside to smoke normally. Chewers can do it anywhere and spit their nastiness in the bathroom sink at restaurants, among other places. Imagine having to be the person who has to clean up after the chewer! I have had to before when I worked at a diner. It looked, smelled and was just plain GROSS! Sweeping up Cig butts are not as bad as having to put on gloves and **EWWW** touch a person's nasty chewed up brown mass of grossness :p!

      October 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. NotThatSimple

    You are aware that tobacco sales have tax on them, and the government would lose a lot of profit if they banned tobacco use. Like it or not the major league players are grown men, and should have the right to make their own decisions on what they use.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      They are allowed to choose what they use...but the FCC gets to choose what is allowed to be shown on TV....MLB has the right to choose what it's employees can do at work...

      October 19, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. phan

    what's next... rabbi shots for the easter bunny? what a joke... how about telling your stupid kids they are chewing gum. i mean this... right here... is exactly whats wrong with this country. if they did ban this... i might leave the states, join the taliban... maybe they are right about us...

    October 19, 2011 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
    • dwerbil

      Tobacco in general, used as directed, is a defective product.

      Its use leads most commonly to diseases affecting the heart and lungs, with smoking being a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (including emphysema and chronic bronchitis), and cancer (particularly lung cancer, cancers of the larynx and mouth, and pancreatic cancer). It also causes peripheral vascular disease and hypertension.
      According to the American Medical Association, tobacco use in the United States alone contributes to 500,000 premature deaths each year due to tobacco related illnesses.

      Yeah Phan, not much of a joke, is it now.

      October 19, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • cooper49

      You act like smoking is the only think that causes those deseases. So are most of the drugs put out by the pharacutical companies, Alcohol, car exhaust, factory polutions and river and lake dumping. Smoking has become the scap goat for all the deseases, that after billions spent on research, are no closer to being cured. Get out of my life Republicans.

      October 19, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • phan

      Well, the real demonstrated #1 killer in America is cholesterol. And here comes Senator Finistirre whose fine state is, I regret to say, clogging the nation's arteries with Vermont Cheddar Cheese. If we want to talk numbers, how about the millions of people dying of heart attacks? Perhaps Vermont Cheddar should come with a skull and crossbones.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • seter16

      Wow....they are right about us that THIS is what gets you upset!!! So stupid.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • phan

      its still a joke anyway you put it... you sir are and idiot.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • ....

      STOP TELLING PEOPLE HOW TO LIVE! Is this a nanny state? Do you whiny cry babies get to tell me what to eat and wear and how to breathe? If I wanna go snort a pile of crushed aspirins or drink some drano its my right to do so! Yes, everyone on the planet earth knows smoking can kill you. After decades of doing it. So shut up already. Next thing you know I won't be able to eat a burger at a game because "it'll kill me"

      October 19, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. CDQ

    Want to minimize the US's health problems?? Stop promoting baseball as one of our biggest and most popular sports!!
    No offense, but baseball players sit on the bench or just stand still for most of the game, chew tobacco as stated in this article and not much else. They do the ocassional run, but thats all they do.

    Make Football, Basketball, Soccer, Tennis, even SWIMMING,more popular than baseball to get kids into healthier habits!

    October 19, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • phan

      you obviously have never played baseball... and couldnt last in a 20 game adult slow pitch softball league. you have no idea the pain some of the players are in right now.

      October 19, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • CDQ

      Truthfully I just don't see how thats anymore painful than playing 5 minutes of Football (getting tackled, sprinting), of Basketball (running and jumping constantly), of Soccer (running up and down a 100 meter field), of Tennis (running side to side back and forth on your side of the court) or Swimming (just non stop movement from your whole body)

      Baseball while appealing to lots of people just doesn't bring the same amount of health benefits from the above mentioned sports (aside from the obvious concussions and broken bones more often occuring in Football)

      October 19, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      baseball isn't a real sport....

      October 19, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Wastrel

      Sitting on the bench takes little practice or athleticism. Staying in shape to be ready to play does. And if you're not ready to play, you won't play. You, sir, are not ready to play.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • mfx3

      Yeah, the problem with your argument is that you're completely ignoring the shape and conditioning players have to be in to actually run during those brief periods of activity. A non-athlete would be thrown out at first base on a lucky hit to deep left field by a mile. Just because they make it look easy doesn't mean you can just hop off the couch and do it.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • phan

      try playing it 5-6 times a week from April to October... those games are 1 a week, if that... its sounds like you dont know the first thing about baseball. thats fine but you kinda sound like an idiot

      October 19, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. phan

    if they ban this... ban beer at the stadiums. ban cursing at the umps, ban the players from adjusting their jock straps, ban the fly over... hurts my ears, ban wood bats (save the trees) ban spraying the field (waste of water) ban chewing sunflower seeds (germs everywhere... just ban baseball. we've seen enough.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Logan

      hahaha you say baseball is tough? thats like saying soccer is tough, the majority of the games most players are all standing around or sitting down. you look at how fat and unathletic some of these guys are and the guys that are good and do well and get hurt probably have steroids to blame. your argument is a joke

      October 19, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. Billruss

    Hey Senators! How about worrying about jobs and debt reduction and ending all these wars that really are killing our kids! You are all a bunch of Judas asses that need to be beaten!

    October 19, 2011 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    So why is the Gov getting it's big nose into our sports. Go run the dang country! Don't worry about what private citizen used chew.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jay


    October 19, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. BYOU

    There should be a law passed that these type of idiots cannot hold office. This practice has been a part of baseball from the beginning. These guys should focus more of their time on trying to figure out ways to spend our tax dollars on programs that would help us all. IDOTS

    October 19, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. BadBilly

    The senate health committee needs to pay attention to their jobs, our jobs, and the economy – and quit wasting so much taxpayer money meddling with sports. If they want to go after health issues, go after pollution and Monsanto. Oh wait, that wouldn't be grandstanding, that would actually be complicated and require work. And balls.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  11. NotForYou

    For crying out loud, do not try to legislate every little choice we make.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. AtomicAJ

    I tend the find the sunflower seed shells as annoying as tobacco juice – and I HATE tobacco juice. What a revolting habit.

    October 19, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  13. Kevin

    I'm American, so I do what I want

    October 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wastrel

      I'm American, and I believe you have the right to do what you want, with certain very limited exceptions. This 'proposal' is a publicity stunt by some idiots who are not fit to hold office because they want to control other people's behavior instead of keeping our country and our way of life the best that has ever been.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mfx3

    Yep, no better way to show kids what MLB players think about chewing tobacco than for Uncle Sam to forcibly remove it from their mouths with a piece of unnecessary legislation using the old "children are mindless, mimicking fools" argument.

    October 19, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. pndrthis

    I wonder how these congressmen would react if the players union came back and told them how they should dress, behave, act while they're at work? Just wondering.....

    October 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
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