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. ....

    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 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • phan

      Gentlemen, it's called education. It doesn't come off the side of a cigarette carton. it comes from our teachers, and more importantly our parents. It is the job of every parent to warn their children of all the dangers of the world, including cigarettes, so that one day when they get older they can choose for themselves. I look at my son who was kind enough to come with me today, and I can't help but think that I am responsible for his growth and his development. And I'm proud of that.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff Frank ( R - OHIO ) "Яight Wing Иutcase"

      @ ..... Apparently, you do not totally agree with your own statement. You don't even use your real name like I do because you think there's something to gain from anonymity (they know "who" you are anyways). But people thrive on seeing these millionaires, chewing tobacco and bubble gum, and fill the field full of spit. I quit smoking over three years ago. And my untreated blood pressure, put me in the hospital. I lost time off of work. But where family was concerned, I probably would be dead right now, and wouldn't be able to rip you a new assho_e like you truley deserve.But you? Your right to take your own life, stands right up there with you taking someone elses life, you stupid as_.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Howard

      We're talking about children's health, and the example that highly visible public figures set for minors who often capable of nothing more than "monkey see, monkey do." If that's "nanny-state," then I'm all for it.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      What is wrong with good examples? I thought sports were to be a healthy thing! These "athletes" should know better.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. erik60505

    Yes kids you are "Free" in America. Well, free to watch all our freedoms be stripped one by one – little and big until it is too late. Chewing tobacco please. Next they will have to wear see-through uniforms so the kids can see that big boys carry condoms. Better get rid of players that have tattoos also. And if you are funny looking what kind of example is that? How about their hair? Better set a good example and all have haircuts and no facial hair so kids will be prepared to enter the executive world. OMG is that hat on a little crooked? Next stop--–no spitting!!!

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

      Well said. I have so much contempt for these Marxists like Durbin. I have a message for them BUTT OUT!

      October 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • corey

      Relax Jethro...thank heavens we live in a country where idiotic, reactionary lunkheads like you spend all of their time at their computers harmlessly ranting on comment boards about their freedoms being stripped away. Welcome to the 21st century buddy, you're powerless and will remain so, do your best to live happily and peacefully, it's all you'll ever be able to do, and an angry life is an empty life. Sincerely, A Marxist Socialist Secularist Atheist Jesus-hating Godless Liberal who's a thousand times happier than you are. 🙂

      October 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • erik60505

      I said a little prayer for you corey. Glad you have rights given to you by those who cherish their families and country.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Richie

    Then they need to ban the commercials advertising meat products and fast food – much bigger killers

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

    Oh good, the Senators must have already solved those pesky issues with the budget, housing market and healthcare reform that they can now move on to worrying about what the cameras may catch during a baseball game!

    October 19, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smokedrift

      Senators can do whatever they want, as long as they don't do it on television.

      October 19, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vince

    I just think it's interesting to point out that baseball is the only sport where players do this, or are allowed to do this. Why not chew in basketball, football, or hockey? I for one would like to see it banned from baseball just because I don't see the point in it being there. Any professional sports players are well overpaid to begin with so I think eliminating a bad habit and making them more professional is not that extreme.

    October 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nothing more important to worry about?

      You can't spit on the ice or basketball court without making a huge mess. You can't chew in football because you're wearing a mouthpiece. The tempo of baseball is much more relaxed, when you're sitting in the dugout while your team is batting why not have the freedom to chew tobacco if you choose to? I haven't heard baseball players who don't chew making a big deal out of the players that do, why do these people care? Because they are in a "power" position and would like to force their opinions about what is and isn't right onto the rest of society. Also, you saying that they shouldn't be allowed to because it would make players more professional is your OPINION. However, your opinion shouldn't be forced upon others through mandate or official policy. You're not even a baseball player so why do you care how "professional" they are when they're playing the sport they get paid to? If you don't like it, watch something else.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • NoDems2011

      Well then don't go the frickin games or watch TV. Stay in you own little sterile make believe environment and chill. Don't tell the people that are entertaining you what to do, stay home and shut off you TV.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      I think it is fairly simple as why its in baseball and not other sports. Baseball is the only sport where you dont have to be physically fit to play it. Most basketball, football, and hockey players are very fit and in a very high level of shape. However baseball all you do is sit their on the bench. how many fatties are there in baseball, think zambrano and sabathia. People who are healthy typically dont smoke or do things that hurt their body. just sayin

      October 19, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • brad

      You don't see it in those sports because they are fast-paced sports. They get paid a lot because people are willing to pay a lot to see these guys throw and hit a ball. The owners of teams are greedy and charge outrageous prices for tickets, drastically increasing revenue. This revenue should rightly be shared with the ONLY thing that brings them in...the players. Maybe if people weren't willing to pay $1,500 per seat per game to sit sideline and pay $10 for a small beer, then the revenue would decrease, the owners wouldn't make as much, there could be a "lockout" and the players could get paid less. They can chew "at work" because they make the business money. If you made your company hundreds of millions of dollars every year, I bet you would be allowed to chew tobacco if you wanted to.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • ParkNuts

      They do it in baseball because it's a sport that focuses on hand-eye coordination and you can play baseball relatively leisurely. You can't do that in football or soccer or basketball, and you certainly can't spit on a tennis court or basketball court. I think this is pretty obvious. Just like golfers can booze it up during a round, it's because the type of play allows it to be done along with the game.

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

    How stupidly PC

    October 19, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Andreas Moser

    I want to enjoy my cigar.

    October 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chad Haverstock

    Our kids look up to these baseball players. How hard would it be for them to abstain from using tobacco products during any televised game? Who can't go without chewing tobacco for a couple of hours? Is it really that addictive?

    October 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      How about you breeders just stop having kids? Problem solved...

      October 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      How about YOU act as the role model to your children. When your child sees a player chewing and asks what its is, you tell them and also tell them why its yucky and not good for you. Stop trying to shield your child from the world, instead use these examples as opportunity to educate them.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • kat

      Or how about just being parents to your children and teaching them that tobacco is bad? I grew up watching baseball, and I have always thought chewing tobacco was gross. Why? BECAUSE MY PARENTS TAUGHT ME THAT IT WAS!! How about taking some personal responsibility and stop leaving it up to the tv and the government to raise your kids...

      October 19, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. alamona

    Jesus christ these people have to stop. Oh the poor children! Shield their eyes from anything bad or evil or they'll be tarnished for life!!! This country is just completely losing it. I wish there were a better alternative cause I'd move in a second before things get even worse. Oh yeah, and on a side note- I love how they attack smokers yet would have no idea what to do without all the taxes they get from them if they actually quit. The government would have no money. Well.. actually we already have none haha.

    October 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steven Metzler

    I've never understood tobacco use in baseball. Aren't these guys professional athletes? You don't see football, basketball, hockey, or soccer players with a wad of tobacco during a game. That's not to mention the fact that these guys are "at work". There aren't many professions that allow you to have a big wad of tobacco in your mouth and spit on the floor all day and it be acceptable.

    October 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • tooz72

      ive seen many football players with a dip in during games..much much more in baseball though

      October 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC

      I'm not expert on baseball or the history of baseball but I believe it all goes back to tradition. Everyone used to chew back in the early 1900's when baseball was most popular. Some people choose to carry on that tradition in modern times. Thats my guess anyways.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    Don't these senators have better things to do like work on fixing the economy, balancing the budget, passing legislation be it imigration reform or job bills, etc? Seriously, the senate needs to focus on doing their jobs instead of wasting time on crap like this. When the rest of the government's problems are settled, yeah I could understand focusing on smaller issues, but for now... they need to do their own jobs instead of harassing the rest of the world.

    October 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • brad

      A senator's job is to: worry about tobacco in baseball, make sure no one is using steroids or lying about it (in professional sports only of course), ensure they are "out of the state" so they don't have to vote on an issue (what would happen if a regular person didn't show up to work for a few weeks because they didn't want to face their job? They probably would not continue to get paid). These things are obviously way more important than any real issues facing America.

      October 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bertha59

    Would our Senate stop focusing on things that should be dealt with by other organizations? The Senate's involvement in the Steroid Witch Hunt was bad chewing tobacco. Of course I think all tobacco products are disgusting...I smoked for twenty years so I can say this from experience. But hey, there are many more important issues that need to be taken up, such as the US budget.

    October 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Larry Miller

    WORRY ABOUT FINDING AMERICANS JOBS SENATOR and not banning tobacco at the world series....Really!!!. Wow, do some real work!!!

    October 19, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. nn4pbba

    It is not about PC, or 'freedom' is about the health of alot of those who use sports figures as rolemodels. I agree it is about good parenting when it comes to most of this, but some idolize sports figures TOO...and to watch some of those Brewers included...(T-Plush, Fielder...) thowing wads of chew, spitting chew...EWWWW! Maybe if they want their close ups on National TV, they should have to be CHEW-FREE, or we only see them from far away....

    If prime time has eliminated tobacco use from network TV , then MLB needs to do the same! The game needs to get to the 21st century when it comes to the health of their athletes! It ain't the 1800's anymore, and they aren't using sawdust bags for bases.........GEEZ

    October 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ira

    I hope the MLBPA extracts concessions from the owners in return for that tobacco ban. Everything the owners want, the players should make them pay for.

    October 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
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