At the height of Major League Baseball's season, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) met today with representatives of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) to discuss efforts to cut back on smokeless tobacco use among players and fans. Today's meeting was also attended by Matt Myers, President of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. A photo of today's meeting is available here.
"As the recent death of Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn has reminded us, smokeless tobacco can be a killer," Durbin said. "I commend Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association for the steps they have already taken to decrease smokeless tobacco use among players, but there is more work to be done to limit exposure of their young fans to this deadly habit. I look forward to continuing today's productive discussion as we work toward a complete ban on spit tobacco in baseball--one aspect of our nation's favorite pastime that won't be missed."
"It is no secret that smokeless tobacco kills, and I appreciate Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association for acknowledging this fact, as well as all they have done to reduce smokeless tobacco use by the players," said Pallone. "But with so many young fans watching their favorite players every night on national television for seven months a year, more steps need to be taken to reduce their exposure to this harmful drug. As a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I will continue to work with my colleagues here in Congress toward a total ban of smokeless tobacco in Major League Baseball."
The 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that the use of smokeless tobacco products has increased by 34 percent among high school boys since 2003, and the proportion of high school boys using smokeless tobacco is now nearly an alarming 15 percent. Tobacco companies spend millions on advertisements and promotions the industry spent $451.7 million in 2011 to market smokeless products, an increase from 2010.
In April 2010, Congressman Pallone held a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health to examine the health risks associated with smokeless tobacco and the impact its usage has on our nation's young people. Former Major League Baseball player Joe Garagiola testified at Congressman Pallone's hearing as a strong advocate against smokeless tobacco use after having used it for years during his playing days with the St. Louis Cardinals. Congressman Pallone also sent a letter to the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers before they squared off in the 2010 World Series urging both teams to ban smokeless tobacco use on the field and in the dugout throughout the series.
Before the beginning of the 2011 MLB season, Durbin and U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) asked MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to ban the use of tobacco products on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker rooms at MLB venues. The day before the 2011 World Series, Durbin, Lautenberg, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called on the MLB Players Association to ban the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker rooms at MLB venues.
Selig announced soon after that he would propose banning tobacco in the Major Leagues in the new players' contract and in April 2012, MLB and the MLB Players Association announced new restrictions on smokeless tobacco use both on and off the field. The collective bargaining agreement -- in place until 2016 -- includes language prohibiting players, managers, and coaches from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews and Club appearances. When fans are permitted in the ballpark, players, managers, and coaches must conceal tobacco products and may not carry tobacco products in their uniforms or on their bodies at any time.
Players are also screened for oral cancer during their annual physicals, and MLB has published materials on smoking cessation in both English and Spanish. In addition, MLB and the MLB Players Association launched a nationwide public service campaign against smokeless tobacco targeting young fans and players.