Expos Pitch Anti-tobacco to Vermont Youth Players & Champ Visit Local Little League Team, Host Tobacco-Free Celebration

For immediate release:
August 2, 2002

Megan Lawrence/Jody Waller
Kelliher Samets Volk

Karen Garbarino
Vermont Department of Health

ESSEX — Students who play at least one sport are 40 percent less likely to be regular smokers and 50 percent less likely to be heavy smokers, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Vermont Expos, a tobacco-free team since 1998, are encouraging youth to follow in their footsteps — get involved in athletics and stay clear of tobacco.

“I grew up watching Don Mattingly play for the New York Yankees and I really looked up to him,” said Mike Hinckley, pitcher for the Vermont Expos. “I realize now that I want to be a role model to the next generation of athletes.”

The Vermont Expos have teamed up with the Vermont Department of Health to bring their anti-smoking messages to youth.

Hinckley and a few of his Expos teammates — including Champ — will be visiting an Essex Little League team on Friday, August 2 from noon to 1 p.m. to discuss the effects of tobacco, run the bases and hand out tickets to the celebration of tobacco-free baseball at Centennial Field on Friday, August 9 at 7:05 p.m.

The first 500 youth to arrive at Centennial Field for the celebration will receive a free tobacco-free wiffleball.

Champ will throw the remaining 1,000 wiffleballs into the crowd between innings. There will also be stickers, posters and information about tobacco available for youth at the entrance to the field.

Research has shown that the decision to become a smoker is made between the ages of 10 and 13, an age when many youth are facing temptations and influenced by their role models.

“The influence that professional sports teams and celebrities have on youth is powerful,” said Karen Garbarino, tobacco control chief for the Vermont Department of Health. “It is important to support the groups who have positioned themselves as tobacco-free.”

Twenty-two percent of Vermont youth smoke cigarettes according to the 2001 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Health Department. Health officials hope to cut the youth smoking rates in Vermont to 15 percent by 2010.