Field of Work: Substance abuse prevention: chewing tobacco and snuff
Problem Synopsis: Beginning about 1970, national consumption of spit tobacco (chewing tobacco and snuff) began to increase markedly, especially among boys and young men.
Health experts attributed the increase at least in part to aggressive marketing tactics, including use of professional athletes and sporting events to promote "smokeless tobacco" products as a safe alternative to cigarettes.
Baseball was key to this strategy. Big league players, a traditional role model for American youth, received free samples of spit tobacco products and appeared in industry ads.
Synopsis of the Work: In 1994, Oral Health America, a Chicago-based organization that advocates improved dental care, launched a public education campaign to break baseball's association with spit tobacco, mainly by using ballplayers to deliver anti-spit tobacco messages to young fans.
Named the National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP), the campaign included:
- Public service announcements (PSAs) broadcast in connection with baseball games.
- Stadium events focused on promoting spit tobacco prevention and cessation.
- Distribution of posters and pamphlets illustrating the physical damage that oral cancer can bring to spit tobacco users.
- Spit tobacco-cessation counseling and oral exams for major and minor league players.
- Employment of community coordinators to developing anti-spit tobacco coalitions in high-use regions of the country.
Joe Garagiola Sr., a former major league catcher turned sportscaster and all-around media personality, was the NSTEP national chairperson and spokesperson.