Four U.S. senators have asked the baseball players union to agree to a ban on chewing tobacco at the World Series, which begins Wednesday night.
“When players use smokeless tobacco, they endanger not only their own health, but also the health of millions of children who follow their example,” the senators wrote to Michael Weiner, who heads the union. The Associated Press reports the letter was signed by Dick Durbin of Illinois, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tom Harkin of Iowa.
The letter called on the union to think of the influence the players will have on children watching the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers play. “Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products,” the senators wrote.
A coalition of health groups has been advocating for a ban on tobacco in the next baseball players’ contract. The current contract expires in December.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig backs a ban on chewing tobacco on the field in the new players’ contract. Last winter, Selig received a letter from public health officials in 15 cities with Major League teams, urging Major League Baseball to ban tobacco use by all ballpark personnel. They noted links between smokeless tobacco and oral cancer, gum disease and other health issues. They also pointed to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that use of smokeless tobacco among high school boys has risen 36 percent since 2003.
Smokeless tobacco, including dip and chew, is banned in Minor League ballparks.