Strike tobacco out of baseball and start with World Series, public health expert says

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other legislators are calling for baseball players to stop using chewing tobacco on the field and in front of their fans. “This is an important public health issue,” says Douglas Luke, PhD, director of the Center for Tobacco Policy Research at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Not only is smokeless tobacco use hazardous, but young people who use smokeless tobacco are more likely to also start smoking cigarettes.”

Luke notes that smokeless tobacco use is a growing problem, particularly for the youngest baseball fans.

“Here in Missouri, smokeless tobacco use has almost doubled in just six years among high school boys, from 9.1 percent in 2003 to 16.6 percent in 2009,” he says.

“Baseball players continue to be huge role models, especially for kids and adolescents. Young people are very aware of and influenced by the tobacco use of their role models they see on television, the movies or in public.

“The World Series is one of the most viewed public venues in the world,” he says.

Luke says that baseball players’ individual rights need to be balanced against the fact that they are role models who are playing in a public setting that will be viewed by millions of people.

“Minor-league baseball has had a ban on all forms of tobacco use since the mid-’90s. It is well past time for the major league to follow suit,” Luke says.