Religious leaders are hoping to hit a home run in a campaign
to get Major League Baseball players to ban tobacco use on fields and dugouts
of the national pastime.
More than two dozen members of the coalition group Faith
United Against Tobacco wrote May 30 to Michael Weiner, executive director of
the Major League Baseball Players Association, focusing on the hazards of
“What players do on their own time is their business, but
what they do when they are in uniform and on camera is all of ours, especially
considering what’s at stake,” wrote the leaders, citing increased use of
smokeless tobacco by high school boys, and players who have been sickened or
killed after dipping or chewing tobacco.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has proposed
that smokeless tobacco be banned just as it has been in the minor leagues; the
proposed ban has already drawn support from politicians and medical groups.
Weiner has said the issue would be part of collective
bargaining talks this year, but has called smokeless tobacco a legal substance
that does not have the secondary health risks of cigarette smoke.
Leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations see
baseball players’ role-model status as the biggest risk for young people.
“When the cameras are rolling and they zoom in on a player,
the last thing we want our kids to see is a big wad of chewing tobacco in his
cheek or under his lip, as if he’s an advertising spokesman for deadly tobacco,”
said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and
Religious Liberty Commission.