National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
April 20, 2010 • Volume 7 / Number 8

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Legislative Update

House Committee Convenes Hearing on Smokeless Tobacco

The House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health, held a hearing on April 14: “Smokeless Tobacco: Impact on the Health of Our Nation's Youth and Use in Major League Baseball.” NCI’s Deputy Director of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences Dr. Deborah Winn testified before the committee, as did Dr. Terry Pechacek, associate director for science in the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.

The full panel of witnesses included representatives of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA); Dr. Greg Connolly, a dentist and Harvard professor who has conducted research on smokeless tobacco for more than 20 years; Gruen Von Behrens, an oral cancer survivor and tobacco prevention advocate; and baseball legend Joe Garagiola, Sr., who continues to work as an MLB announcer and is a vocal advocate for ridding MLB of smokeless tobacco.

Dr. Winn’s testimony recognized smokeless tobacco, which includes snuff and chewing tobacco, as an established cause of oral, pharyngeal, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers, and stressed that there is no safe level of tobacco use. She also addressed questions from members of the committee regarding MLB players using smokeless tobacco on the field, and therefore on television. Media depictions of tobacco use have been shown to contribute to an increase in youth tobacco use, explained Dr. Winn. NCI’s “Monograph 19: The Role of the Media in Promoting and Reducing Tobacco Use” provides additional information on this topic.

Dr. Pechacek provided an overview of current trends in smokeless tobacco use, revealing that new CDC survey data indicate that after years of decline, smokeless tobacco use is actually increasing now among males in grades 9 through 12. These latest data will be available this summer, when the CDC releases the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System results. These findings add to existing data, which indicate increases in smokeless tobacco use among white and Hispanic young men (particularly those between age 18 and 25) between 2003 and 2008.

Throughout the hearing, committee members and witnesses discussed Minor League Baseball’s policy prohibiting smokeless tobacco use on the field and in the clubhouse. Committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and subcommittee chairman Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) encouraged MLB and the MLBPA to discuss and adopt this policy during their upcoming collective bargaining process.

NCI currently funds six grants addressing smokeless tobacco via its RFA, “Measures and Determinants of Smokeless Tobacco Use, Prevention, and Cessation.” More information about these funding opportunities can be found at http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/tcrb/research_topic-smokeless.html.

More information on the hearing, including a full list of witnesses, can be found on the committee Web site.

For more information about this and other NCI congressional activity, visit the NCI Office of Government and Congressional Relations Web site.

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