U.S. Senators Call for Tobacco-Free Baseball

October 18, 2011


With the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals set to begin the 2011 World Series Wednesday night, four U.S. Senators called on the Major League Baseball Players Association to protect players' health and the well-being of millions of young fans by agreeing to a contractual ban on tobacco use at games.  

Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct) urged in a letter to Players Association executive director Michael Weiner that the ban be effective in the 2012 baseball contract. The senators noted that the World Series is likely to be watched by an estimated 15 million viewers, many of them children.

'When players use smokeless tobacco, they endanger not only their own health, but the health of millions of children who follow their example,' the lawmakers wrote.

2011 World Series LogoSimultaneously, the top public health officials in Arlington, Texas, and St. Louis — home to the Rangers and the Cardinals — asked that their hometown players voluntarily refrain from using tobacco during the World Series. They also renewed calls for Major League Baseball and the players union to agree to the permanent prohibition on tobacco use at games.

'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,' Dr. Cynthia Simmons, the Public Health Authority for the City of Arlington, Texas and Pamela Walker, director of the St. Louis City Health Department, wrote in a separate letter to Weiner. 'It creates an image for young fans that tobacco use is not only acceptable, but masculine and athletic.'

The municipal health officials also renewed the request, made in March by top public health officials in MLB cities across the country, that the union agree to prohibit tobacco use 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.

The coalition supporting tobacco-free baseball has grown throughout the 2011 season. It now includes 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 act to get tobacco out of the game.