At Start of Baseball Season, Durbin, Lautenberg, Harkin, Blumenthal Applaud MLB for Banning Tobacco Use

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - As the Miami Marlins prepare to host the World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals on Major League Baseball’s opening night, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) commended Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association for implementing restrictions on smokeless tobacco use both on and off the field. 


The collective bargaining agreement announced last November, which is still being drafted, includes language prohibiting players, managers, and coaches from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews and Club appearances. Also, 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 will also be 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 will be launching a nationwide public service campaign against smokeless tobacco targeting young fans and players. 


Durbin, Lautenberg, Harkin and Blumenthal released the following statement:


“As baseball fans across America tune in to see their favorite teams and players in the first games of the Major League Baseball season, there is one thing they won’t see—the tobacco-filled cheeks and recognizable tin in the back pockets of players. MLB and the MLB Players Association have made the right decision by implementing stricter rules for smokeless tobacco on the field and off the field. This is one part of our great baseball tradition that won’t be missed.”


“We are pleased that MLB has taken additional steps to ensure the health of their players by instituting annual oral cancer screenings and providing players with materials to help them quit their tobacco use, published in both English and Spanish. This is a nationwide marketing campaign against smokeless tobacco. Aimed at young fans and players, it sends a strong message that tobacco use is not essential to the sport of baseball.”


“We hope that the restrictions being implemented this season are the first step toward a complete ban on smokeless tobacco in baseball—a move that could prevent a new generation of fans from emulating their on-field heroes by picking up this dangerously addictive habit.”


“We especially commend the players who have chosen to give up the habit altogether. Their decision will set a positive example for the young fans who look up to them as role models. We wish them luck in their upcoming seasons. Play ball!”


Before the beginning of the 2011 season, Durbin and Lautenberg 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. Selig announced soon after that he would propose banning tobacco in the Major Leagues in the new players’ contract.


The 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that the use of smokeless tobacco products has increased by 36 percent among high school boys since 2003, and the proportion of high school boys using smokeless tobacco is now an alarming 15 percent. Tobacco companies spend millions on advertisements tailored to attract young people to use tobacco products—the industry more than doubled its marketing for smokeless products between 2005 and 2008, to a record $547.9 million.