OHA sends 11-year-old slogan contest winner to the Little League Baseball World Series

September 7, 2011

Someday sunflower seeds or bubblegum might become widely viewed as the preferred chewing substances in baseball dugouts across America, but chewing tobacco remains a lingering presence in the world of baseball. This is something Oral Health America's NSTEP® (National Spit Tobacco Education Program) hopes to change, and the organization is trying to spread its message to the game's youngest players.

Someday sunflower seeds or bubblegum might become widely viewed as the preferred chewing substances in baseball dugouts across America, but chewing tobacco remains a lingering presence in the world of baseball. This is something Oral Health America's NSTEP® (National Spit Tobacco Education Program) hopes to change, and the organization is trying to spread its message to the game's youngest players.

In conjunction with the Little League Baseball World Series, NSTEP held a slogan contest where children could submit their best attempt at creating a catchy message against the use of chewing tobacco. This year 11-year-old Louie Lafakis, who plays for Basking Ridge, N.J. Little League, was the winner chosen from the more than 465 submitted slogans. His memorable baseball themed slogan, "Make a great play…throw tobacco away" stands out for being simple, clear and on point with the campaign's message.

The young ballplayer's slogan was featured on pins distributed at the Little League World Series, and he and his family won a trip to the Series for an on-field award ceremony along with a cash prize. Congratulations to Louie and to every other young ballplayer who submitted a slogan to the contest. OHA and NSTEP are working to get their messages to young people and reaching them through a game they love is a great way to go.

Read the full press release below:

NSTEP® slogan contest educates young baseball and softball players about the dangers of tobacco use

Eleven-year-old from New Jersey Wins Trip to Little League Baseball World Series

CHICAGO, Aug. 23, 2011 - Oral Health America’s NSTEP® (National Spit Tobacco Education Program) announced the winner of its annual slogan contest today, and encouraged young baseball and softball players to talk to their coaches and parents about tobacco addiction and the health risks of using tobacco products, including spit and smokeless tobacco.

This year’s slogan contest winner is Louie Lafakis, a 11-year-old player with the Basking Ridge, N.J. Little League, whose submission, “Make a great play…throw tobacco away,” sends a clear message that tobacco has no place in the ballpark.

“We are proud and thrilled not only by the fact that Lou’s slogan was chosen over 465 submissions but more importantly that he felt a profound need to convey his disdain for tobacco use. We pray that this mindset stays with him for the rest of his life and that he can encourage others to avoid the evils of tobacco use,” said Louie’s parents, John and Julie Lafakis.

Louie’s slogan is featured on a pin designed by NSTEP and distributed at the Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. Louie received a monetary award, a trip to the event with his family, and an on-field award ceremony.

According to a recent public opinion survey commissioned by Oral Health America, most Americans (62%) are equally concerned about cigarette use and chewing tobacco, and nearly half (48%) of younger dads aged 18-34 say they are more concerned about smokeless, chewing tobacco, and dip than cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance Survey found that 15% of U.S. high school boys were current smokeless tobacco users in 2009 – a 36 percent increase from 2003.

“Little League is pleased to be a part of helping educate Little League players about the risks associated with the use of spit tobacco,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “We hope that by participating in the slogan contest we help increase awareness for Little League players, coaches and their parents. We thank Oral Health America and commend them on NSTEP’s efforts.”

NSTEP works with Little League International to educate families about the health risks of spit tobacco use, including oral cancer, gum disease, tooth decay, and nicotine addiction. During the 11-Day Little League Baseball World Series, NSTEP provides tobacco and health education to tens of thousands of young baseball and softball players and their families.

Oral Health America connects communities with resources to increase access to care, education and advocacy for all Americans, especially those most vulnerable. To find out more, visit www.oralhealthamerica.org. NSTEP’s presence at the Little League World Series is made possible with support from Delta Dental of California (www.deltadentalins.com).