Durbin, Lautenberg ask MLB Commissioner to Ban Tobacco Use

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–February 15, 2011.  Citing the recent announcement by Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg about the dangers of smokeless tobacco in Major League Baseball (MLB), U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) today called on the Commissioner of the MLB, Bud Selig, and the MLB Players Association to ban the use of tobacco products on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker rooms at MLB venues.

“It has been 28 years since the MLB ended tobacco use in its minor leagues, and it is time to extend that policy throughout MLB’s venues and events. We now know conclusively that smokeless tobacco endangers the health of baseball players who use it, but it also affects millions of young people who watch baseball. The use of smokeless tobacco by baseball players undermines the positive image of the sport and sends a dangerous message to young fans, who may be influenced by the players they look up to as role models,” wrote Durbin and Lautenberg. “The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that the use of smokeless tobacco products has increased by 36 percent among high school boys since 2003.”

Durbin and Lautenberg cited the troubling statistics and numerous health risks of tobacco use: “Tobacco-related products kill 443,000 Americans every year, and each day 1,000 American children and teenagers become new regular smokers…Smokeless tobacco causes cancers of the stomach, larynx, esophagus, oral cancer — which can require disfiguring surgery — and pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancers. The use of smokeless tobacco is also linked to cardiovascular disease, gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth lesions.”

In the January 31st Washington Post article, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg announced his effort to quit using smokeless tobacco – also known as chewing tobacco or ‘dip’. Strasburg pointed to his desire to emulate professional baseball players as a reason why he began using smokeless tobacco.

In a separate letter sent today to Strasburg, Durbin and Lautenberg commended the young pitcher’s resolve: “Your individual decision to quit smokeless tobacco, not only for your health, but to set a positive image for the young people who look up to you and watch baseball, is laudable. We want to encourage you to stick with it. Baseball fans will notice. Your example could prevent disease and disability and save a few lives.”

[Text of the letters below]

February 15, 2011

Allan H. “Bud” Selig, Commissioner
Major League Baseball
245 Park Avenue, 31st Floor
New York, New York 10167

Dear Commissioner Selig:

We write to ask that Major League Baseball (MLB) prohibit the use of tobacco products on the field, the dugout, and the lockers rooms at all venues.

It has been 28 years since the MLB ended tobacco use in its minor leagues, and it is time to extend that policy throughout MLB’s venues and events. We now know conclusively that smokeless tobacco endangers the health of baseball players who use it, but it also affects millions of young people who watch baseball. The use of smokeless tobacco by baseball players undermines the positive image of the sport and sends a dangerous message to young fans, who may be influenced by the players they look up to as role models.

Tobacco-related products kill 443,000 Americans every year, and each day 1,000 American children and teenagers become new regular smokers. The U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the U.S. National Cancer Institute have concluded that smokeless tobacco causes cancers of the stomach, larynx, esophagus, oral cancer — which can require disfiguring surgery — and pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancers. The use of smokeless tobacco is also linked to cardiovascular disease, gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth lesions.

The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that the use of smokeless tobacco products has increased by 36 percent among high school boys since 2003, raising the number of high school boys using smokeless tobacco to an alarming 15 percent. While tobacco companies spend millions on ads tailored to attract young people to use tobacco products, MLB is undoubtedly complicit in attracting many young people to try smokeless tobacco after seeing their baseball heroes chew tobacco.

In 1993 Major League Baseball took the commendable step of prohibiting the use of smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products in the minor leagues. When MLB convenes at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December 2011 to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, we urge you to advocate for a prohibition on the use of all forms of tobacco products in the final contract. Such an agreement would protect the health of players and their young fans.

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

Sincerely,

February 15, 2011

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

Dear Mr. Weiner:

We write to ask that the Major League Baseball Players Association prohibit the use of tobacco products on the field, the dugout, and the lockers rooms at all venues.

It has been 28 years since Major League Baseball (MLB) ended tobacco use in its minor leagues, and it is time to extend that policy throughout MLB’s venues and events. We now know conclusively that smokeless tobacco endangers the health of baseball players who use it, but it also affects millions of young people who watch baseball. The use of smokeless tobacco by baseball players undermines the positive image of the sport and sends a dangerous message to young fans, who may be influenced by the players they look up to as role models.

Tobacco-related products kill 443,000 Americans every year, and each day 1,000 American children and teenagers become new regular smokers. The U.S. Surgeon General, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the U.S. National Cancer Institute have concluded that smokeless tobacco causes cancers of the stomach, larynx, esophagus, oral cancer — which can require disfiguring surgery — and pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of cancers. The use of smokeless tobacco is also linked to cardiovascular disease, gum disease, tooth decay, and mouth lesions.

The National Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that the use of smokeless tobacco products has increased by 36 percent among high school boys since 2003, raising the number of high school boys using smokeless tobacco to an alarming 15 percent. While tobacco companies spend millions on ads tailored to attract young people to use tobacco products, MLB is undoubtedly complicit in attracting many young people to try smokeless tobacco after seeing their baseball heroes chew tobacco.

In 1993 Major League Baseball took the commendable step of prohibiting the use of smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products in the minor leagues. When the Players Association and the MLB convene at the Baseball Winter Meetings in December 2011 to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement, we urge you to advocate for a prohibition on the use of all forms of tobacco products in the final contract. Such an agreement would protect the health of players and their young fans.

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

Sincerely,

February 15, 2011

Stephen Strasburg
c/o Sheryl Rampy
Washington Nationals
1500 South Capitol Street, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20003

Dear Mr. Strasburg,

We read the Washington Post article in which you discussed your use of smokeless tobacco and commitment to quitting. We commend you for sharing your addiction to — and your resolve to quit — smokeless tobacco with your young fans and the American people.

Your story resonates with many Americans who, like you, started using smokeless tobacco as a way to emulate the major league baseball players they admired on television and at the baseball park. For many people, this innocent effort to imitate role models develops into a powerful addiction with severe health consequences, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, gum disease, and tooth decay.

While smoking among youth has declined dramatically in the last 10 years, there has been a 36 percent increase in smokeless tobacco use among high school boys. In 2009, the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey estimated that 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless tobacco products.

Your individual decision to quit smokeless tobacco, not only for your health, but to set a positive image for the young people who look up to you and watch baseball, is laudable. We want to encourage you to stick with it. Baseball fans will notice. Your example could prevent disease and disability and save a few lives.

We wish you every success in your efforts to quit and in your recovery from Tommy John surgery. We all look forward to seeing you back on the field.

Sincerely,

Source: durbin.senate.gov