As Young Fans Enjoy World Series, Magazine Ads Link Baseball and Smokeless Tobacco

October 28, 2014

For millions of fans of all ages, October means the excitement of the baseball playoffs and World Series.

For tobacco companies, it means another opportunity to target kids by associating smokeless tobacco with baseball and other sports.

This month’s issues of the two leading sports magazines, Sports Illustrated and ESPN, have included huge, two-page advertising spreads for Grizzly, which is by far the most popular smokeless tobacco brand among youth ages 12-17. Grizzly is made by American Snuff Company, a subsidiary of tobacco giant Reynolds American.

The magazine covers have featured sports heroes idolized by many young fans, including retiring New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter on the cover of ESPN magazine.

Sports Illustrated and ESPN magazine have millions of teen readers, and these ads send them a terrible message associating smokeless tobacco use with ruggedness and sports, especially baseball.

The ads come as recent events have underscored how the widespread use of smokeless tobacco by baseball players has harmed their health and set the wrong example for young fans.

In June, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died from cancer that he attributed to his longtime use of chewing tobacco. Then, in August, All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling announced that he had been treated for oral cancer that he, too, attributed to chewing tobacco.

“I wish I could go back and never have dipped. Not once. It was so painful,” Schilling said at the time.

The solution to this problem is two-fold: Take tobacco out of baseball and take tobacco ads out of magazines with large youth readerships.

In June, nine leading health groups, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, urged Major League Baseball and its Players Association to prohibit tobacco use at ballparks and on camera.  While the league has supported doing so, the players union has balked.  It’s time for baseball to stop helping the tobacco industry market such a harmful and addictive product to kids.