Oct. 16 1997
Washington, DC - During the World Series, millions of children will watch America’s national pastime and see their favorite players spitting deadly and addictive smokeless (spit) tobacco. Today, the CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS sounded its October Tobacco Smoke Alarm on spit tobacco use in the Major Leagues and, following baseball’s refusal to create "tobacco-free innings" during the World Series, called for players to voluntarily refrain from using it during upcoming games. "Baseball players provide America with great family entertainment and many role models," said CAMPAIGN President Bill Novelli. "Unfortunately, the family atmosphere at the ballpark is being marred by the unhealthy use of spit tobacco. Today, we’re sounding the October Tobacco Smoke Alarm on spit tobacco use in baseball, and calling on players to take immediate action to protect kids and save lives." "During the World Series, millions of children will see spit tobacco use glamorized by their baseball heroes, and far too many will go on to begin a deadly lifetime addiction," Novelli continued. "Major League Baseball has shown a willingness to address this issue, as evidenced by its work with the National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP) over the last two years. We now believe it’s time to build on this momentum by calling on Cleveland Indians and Florida Marlins players to send kids a clear message that tobacco kills and to voluntarily kick the habit during World Series games, and hopefully, afterwards." The CAMPAIGN today sent letters to management and the player representatives of the Cleveland Indians and Florida Marlins and to Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, calling on them to ask players to voluntarily stop using spit tobacco during the World Series. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NSTEP is a multi-year public awareness campaign that uses baseball celebrities and players to educate the American people that spit tobacco is not a safe alternative to smoking cigarettes, and to encourage those who are users to get help in quitting. The CAMPAIGN’s effort follows the refusal of Major League Baseball and the Players Association to agree to Senator Frank Lautenberg’s (D-NJ) request to make the first inning of each World Series Game "tobacco-free." Earlier this year, the Players Association, at the urging of Senator Lautenberg, asked All-Star Game participants to refrain from using spit tobacco during the game. Use of spit tobacco is banned in the minor leagues. Senator Lautenberg said today, "After hitting a home run by requesting that participants in this summer’s All-Star Game refrain from using spit tobacco, baseball totally struck out by not urging players to refrain from using it in even the first inning of post-season games. If Major League Baseball and the Players Association won’t act together, then individual players ought to put their conscience where their money is, and do the right thing by America’s kids." Iowa dentist Dr. Rhys Jones has studied the duration of perceptible, on-camera spit tobacco use during one televised game for all World Series since 1986. His research shows that viewers have been exposed to an average of almost 10 minutes per game of on-camera use of this carcinogenic substance. (This figure does not include data from 1994, when a players’ strike prevented the World Series from taking place.) Fully 20 percent of high school boys in America currently use spit tobacco, and its users are up to 50 times more likely to get cancer than non-users. Spit tobacco use can lead to oral cancer, gum disease, and nicotine addiction, while also increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Certain spit tobacco-related cancers can occur within five years of regular use. Leukoplakia, a disease of the mouth characterized by white patches and oral lesions on the cheeks, gums, and/or tongue, can lead to oral cancer. Leukoplakia occurs in more than half of all users in the first three years of spit tobacco use. Studies have found that 60 to 78 percent of spit tobacco users have oral lesions. Photographs illustrating the devastating effects of spit tobacco use -- including oral cancer and leukoplakia -- are featured on the Kids’ Corner (Your Body) page of the CAMPAIGN's web site. Dr. Timothy Dyer, CAMPAIGN member and executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals said, "While parents, educators, and community leaders may warn their children against using tobacco, kids get a very different message when they go to the ballpark or watch a game on television. The widespread use of spit tobacco by professional baseball players deceives kids into believing it is a cool, healthy and risk-free part of the game. The reality is that this addictive product leads to serious disease and even death." The Tobacco Smoke Alarm is sounded monthly and is aimed highlighting the deadly effects of tobacco. It also exposes tobacco marketing efforts aimed at kids. The CAMPAIGN FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS is the largest initiative ever undertaken to decrease youth tobacco use in the United States. Its mandate is to focus the nation's attention and action on keeping tobacco marketing from seducing children, and making tobacco less accessible to kids. The CAMPAIGN can be reached by email at: TobaccoSmokeAlarm@TobaccoFreeKids.org. # # # Note to editors: Copies of the CAMPAIGN’s letters to Cleveland Indians and Florida Marlins management and the player representatives and Donald Fehr are available upon request.