US Senators Condemn Tobacco Sponsorship of Orange Bowl, Ask for Rethink

December 23, 2011

Three U.S. senators are urging the Orange Bowl and NCAA to reconsider a three-year deal with Camacho Cigars, view saying tobacco has no place in sports.

Sens. Dick Durbin, medic Frank Lautenberg and Richard Blumenthal, ailment all Democrats, are making the plea in letters to the bowl and NCAA Thursday.

It follows a similar effort earlier this week by several public health groups.

The sponsorship calls for a large presence at several game-day events, including lounges where fans can light up. The three-year deal includes the 2013 BCS National Championship.

The senators say that cigars contain the same toxic and cancer-causing chemicals that cigarettes do. They argue that promoting cigars at the Orange Bowl sends the wrong message to young fans.

“Tobacco has no place in sports, and the promotion of cigars at the Orange Bowl sends the wrong message to young fans,” the Senators wrote. “A tobacco company’s sponsorship of the Orange Bowl undermines a premier collegiate sporting event and promotes tobacco use to young fans, putting them at risk of developing an addictive and dangerous habit. Furthermore, Camacho Cigars’ sponsorship is at odds with the NCAA rules prohibiting tobacco use by student athletes and all game personnel in any form at practice and in competitions.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, cigar smoking is linked to cancer of the lung, mouth, throat, and esophagus.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, of the 13 million Americans who smoke cigars, an estimated 1.8 million are high school students and 475,000 are middle school students.

Earlier this year, Durbin, Lautenberg, Blumenthal and Senator Tom Harkin led an effort against the use of smokeless tobacco in Major League Baseball (MLB).  On the eve of the 2011 World Series, the Senators called on the MLB Players Association to join Commissioner Bud Selig in banning the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, on the field, in the dugout, and in the locker rooms at MLB venues.  Shortly after the season ended, MLB baseball announced a new collective bargaining agreement that prohibits players, managers, and coaches from using smokeless tobacco during televised interviews and Club appearances and, when fans are permitted in the ballpark, they must conceal tobacco products and may not carry tobacco products in their uniforms or on their bodies at any time.

Last week, Durbin, Lautenberg and Blumenthal joined Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Jeff Merkley in sending a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration asking it to ban flavored cigars.  According to the Senators, this ban would help decrease the staggering rate of cigar use by children and young adults by removing these harmful products from the marketplace.