Both Major League Baseball (MLB) officials and members of Congress would like to see all tobacco use by players banned, but the player's union will have the final say when the current collective-bargaining agreement expires next year.
MLB Fanhouse reported May 3 that while smoking is banned in dugouts and on the field, about one-third of MLB players use smokeless tobacco. Use of smokeless tobacco is now banned in the minor leagues, but not the majors.
“It's not something I'm proud of or something I want to continue doing,” said San Francisco Giants outfielder Mark DeRosa. “It's like any addiction. It calms me down before I go to the plate. You tell yourself that. Even though you know it's not reality, it's my reality.”
Congress recently held hearings on tobacco use in baseball and urged MLB to enact a ban. MLB Executive Vice President Rob Manfried called that “a laudable goal” but said the union would have to agree.
“If it's legal in the United States of America, you can't say someone can't do it,” said Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who does not use tobacco. “It's a free country. You start going down those roads, taking away freedoms this country is based on … I think we are seeing signs of more and more of that happening and we need to back off.”
However, many employers prohibit workers from activities that are legal in other settings, and some players said that allowing the use of smokeless tobacco projects a bad image for the game. “Sometimes when I'm watching the games you see a guy throw in a big dip and the camera focuses in on it, I know kids are watching,” said A's infielder Eric Chavez. “You want guys to be able to do what they want. Everyone is an adult, but you also have to be aware of the message that you send to kids.”