Oct. 18 2011
WASHINGTON, DC — Top municipal health officials in Texas and St. Louis called today for players in the World Series to voluntarily refrain from using smokeless tobacco while they are competing in the internationally televised games, and renewed calls for Major League Baseball and the players union to agree to ban smokeless tobacco use at games beginning in the 2012 contract.
With the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals set to begin playing in the fall classic tomorrow night, Dr. Cynthia Simmons, the Public Health Authority for the City of Arlington, Texas and Pamela Walker, interim director of the St. Louis City Health Department, called on their hometown teams to voluntarily refrain from using smokeless tobacco at games and on camera.
"The use of tobacco by big-league ballplayers at a single World Series game provides millions of dollars worth of free television advertising for an addictive and deadly product," the health officials wrote in a letter to Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. "It creates an image for young fans that tobacco use is not only acceptable, but masculine and athletic."
Dr. Simmons and Director Walker noted that the tobacco industry is prohibited from advertising its products on television, and is restricted in marketing to youth. "Tobacco companies literally could not buy the ads that are effectively created by celebrity ballplayers using tobacco at games," they wrote.
The municipal health officials reiterated their request, and that of top public health officials in Major League Baseball cities across the country, that the union agree in the 2012 contract to prohibit the use of tobacco at games and on camera. Commissioner Bud Selig announced on Opening Day that the league would seek such a ban. The players union has said the issue is being discussed.
Ten major medical and public health groups last November asked the MLB and the players union to prohibit smokeless tobacco use in the next collective bargaining agreement. Since then, the coalition supporting tobacco-free baseball has grown to include more than 200 baseball figures and youth leagues, faith leaders, public health and medical groups, youth organizations and others. Thousands of fans across the country have sent more than 20,000 messages to the league and to the players union asking that they get tobacco out of the game.
The use of smokeless tobacco by big-league players at games and on camera sends the wrong message to young fans who look up to their baseball heroes. With cigarette sales declining, the tobacco industry is spending record sums — $548 million in 2008 alone — to promote smokeless tobacco. It is having an effect: The use of smokeless tobacco by high school boys has climbed 36 percent since 2003, and about 15 percent of high school boys now use these products, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer and has been linked to cancers of the pancreas, esophagus, pharynx, larynx and stomach.