Lawmakers Ask MLB Players Association To Voluntarily Ban Tobacco Use

Sen. Frank Lautenberg

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With as many as 15 million viewers—including many children— expected to tune in to watch the first game of the 2011 World Series tonight, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), joined several fellow Democrats to call on the Major League Baseball Players Association to ban the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker rooms.

“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 senators wrote.

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, Senators Lautenberg and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) asked Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to ban the use of tobacco products on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker rooms. Selig has since announced that he will propose banning tobacco in the Major Leagues in the new players’ contract.

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