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Durbin: Wants Major League Baseball to ban players from using tobacco at ballpark

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WASHINGTON--The day before game one of the World Series, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other senators are asking Major League Baseball to ban players from using tobacco products at games, especially smokeless or chewing tobacco.


"Tomorrow night, an expected 15 million viewers, including many children, will tune in to watch the first game of the series. Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products," wrote Durbin and other senators to MLB executive director Michael Weiner.

"During the upcoming negotiations over the bargaining agreement, we write to ask that the Major League Baseball Players Association agree to a prohibition on the use of all tobacco products at games and on camera at all Major League ballparks. This would send a strong message to young baseball fans, who look toward the players as role models, that tobacco use is not essential to the sport of baseball."

click below for senators' letter...

below, Durbin release....

DURBIN, LAUTENBERG, HARKIN, BLUMENTHAL ASK MLB PLAYERS ASSOCIATION TO VOLUNTARILY BAN TOBACCO USE

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - On the eve of an expected 15 million viewers--including many children--tuning in to watch the first game of the 2011 World Series tomorrow, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today called on the Major League Baseball (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.

"Tomorrow night, an expected 15 million viewers, including many children, will tune in to watch the first game of the series. Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products," wrote the Senators. "During the upcoming negotiations over the bargaining agreement, we write to ask that the Major League Baseball Players Association agree to a prohibition on the use of all tobacco products at games and on camera at all Major League ballparks. This would send a strong message to young baseball fans, who look toward the players as role models, that tobacco use is not essential to the sport of baseball."

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. According to the Senators: "Major League ballplayers who use smokeless tobacco at games are providing a celebrity endorsement for these products, encouraging many young people to try smokeless tobacco."

"Major League Baseball and the players union should follow the senators' leadership and get smokeless tobacco out of the game," said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. "The calls for tobacco-free baseball have come from hundreds of diverse voices that have grown louder over the course of the 2011 season. Now it is time for baseball to act to protect the health of current players and millions of kids who look up to them."

Earlier this year, 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 has since announced that he will propose banning tobacco in the Major Leagues in the new players' contract. Durbin sent a copy of the letter to the player representatives for teams with strong followings in Illinois: Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

[Text of the letter below]

October 18, 2011



Michael Weiner, Executive Director
Major League Baseball Players Association
12 East 49th Street, 24th Floor
New York, New York 10167

Dear Mr. Weiner:

During the upcoming negotiations over the bargaining agreement, we write to ask that the Major League Baseball Players Association agree to a prohibition on the use of all tobacco products at games and on camera at all Major League ballparks. This would send a strong message to young baseball fans, who look toward the players as role models, that tobacco use is not essential to the sport of baseball.

The World Series highlights the importance of this issue. Tomorrow night, an expected 15 million viewers, including many children, will tune in to watch the first game of the series. Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products.

When players use smokeless tobacco, they endanger not only their own health, but also the health of millions of children who follow their example. Every year, tobacco use kills 443,000 Americans, most of whom started using tobacco as teenagers. The Surgeon General, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute have concluded that smokeless tobacco causes cancers of the stomach, larynx, and esophagus; oral cancers - which can require disfiguring surgery - and pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The use of smokeless tobacco is also linked to cardiovascular disease, gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth lesions.

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. Major League ballplayers who use smokeless tobacco at games are providing a celebrity endorsement for these products, encouraging many young people to try smokeless tobacco.

In 1993, Major League Baseball took the commendable step of prohibiting the use of smokeless tobacco and other products in the minor leagues. It is time for the players to take the lead and support extending this policy throughout MLB. Commissioner Bud Selig already has proposed a prohibition on smokeless tobacco use to be included in the next contract. When the Players Association and the MLB convene at the Baseball Winter Meetings this December to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, we urge you to agree to a prohibition on the use of all forms of tobacco products at games and on camera at all Major League ballparks in the final contract. Such an agreement would protect the health of players and be a great gift to your young fans.

Thank you for your consideration of this important public health issue.

Sincerely,



________________________ ________________________
Richard J. Durbin Frank R. Lautenberg
United States Senator United States Senator



________________________ ________________________
Tom Harkin Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator United States Senator

-30-

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on October 18, 2011 11:05 AM.

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