Religious leaders call a strike on tobacco

June 2, 2011

(RNS) 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 smokeless tobacco.

"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.