Religious leaders, including Galen Carey, NAE Vice President of Government Relations, call the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to agree to Commissioner Bud Selig’s proposed prohibition of tobacco use at games. The faith leaders join a growing coalition of medical groups, public health officials and fans in urging the prohibition of smokeless tobacco during major league baseball games.
“Baseball players are role models for adoring youth whose lives are threatened by chewing tobacco,” Carey said. “The players’ union should agree now to a tobacco-free ballpark, for their own sake and for the health of their fans.”
In a letter to Michael Weiner, Executive Director of the MLBPA, the religious leaders said, “In our calling, we see the impact that tobacco use has on families and communities. This is a product that maims and kills those who use it.” 
The religious leaders, which represent 25 faith groups, noted that smokeless tobacco use among high school boys has climbed 36 percent since 2003, and said big league ballplayers have a responsibility to be better role models for young fans. Smokeless tobacco use causes oral cancer, gum disease, tooth decay and mouth lesions. Its use may also serve as a gateway to cigarette smoking, the nation’s number one cause of preventable death.
In November, 10 major medical and public health groups asked Selig and Weiner to prohibit tobacco use at games as part of current contract talks. Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey also called for a ban, and in March, the top public health officials in a majority of Major League Baseball cities joined together in backing a prohibition.
Selig announced on March 31 – opening day of the 2011 season – that the league would propose a tobacco ban comparable to the one currently in place in the minor leagues. The players’ union has not responded to Selig’s proposal, and has said the issue is the subject of negotiations.
Many of today’s young baseball stars, including Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg and American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton, have spoken about their addiction to smokeless tobacco and difficulty in quitting. Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn was recently diagnosed with cancer and attributed his disease to years of chewing tobacco. These anecdotes underscore the health threat of smokeless tobacco.
Baseball fans can send letters to their favorite MLB team asking them to support the tobacco ban at TobaccoFreeBaseball.org. Letter from religious leaders to Major League Baseball Players Association. Available at http://www.tobaccofreebaseball.org/get_involved.html.