Posts Tagged ‘baseball’

Senators Urge Major Leagues to Ban Smokeless Tobacco

Chewing (aka spit/smokeless) tobacco has been part of American baseball since the 1900s, when players stuck wads of it in their cheeks to keep their mouths from getting dry in the dusty parks.

“Smokeless tobacco is not only bad for the players themselves, but also sends the wrong message to young boys who look up to players as role models,” said Bobby Brown, former President of Major League Baseball’s American League, in a Heart Insight magazine article I wrote in May 2010.

As a cardiologist, Brown knew that tobacco increased the risk of heart problems, but he struck out when he broached the idea of banning smokeless tobacco in the Majors because it would have required altering the collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners, and the players union wanted no part of it.

However, he was instrumental in getting Minor League baseball to ban the use of smokeless tobacco, and then the use of all tobacco products, in the 1990s.

Brown took an indirect approach to attack smokeless tobacco use among Major League players. He helped launch a full-scale educational campaign teaching professional baseball players and team personnel about the long-term hazards of using smokeless tobacco, and worked to develop a guide tailored to help baseball players break the habit.

In April 2010, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Health Subcommittee chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) held a hearing on chewing tobacco use by young people and the bad example set by professional baseball players who use the stuff. A Major League Baseball official and the chief labor counsel of the Players’ Association agreed to put the issue on the table when the players’ labor contract expires in December 2011.

Two days ago, two Senate Democrats, Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey and Dick Durbin of Illinois, sent a letter urging Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and union chief Michael Weiner to agree to a ban in their next collective bargaining agreement.

Whether the players agree to a ban during collective bargaining remains to be seen, notes Brown, adding, “anything they do to stop the use of smokeless tobacco is a step in the right direction.”