By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
Baseball fans will still see nearly one in three Major Leaguers with the tell-tale pinch between their cheek and gum, but a new labor deal signed late last month mandates that tobacco packages and tins not show up in uniforms in front of spectators; nor can players dip or chew during televised interviews and other public appearances.
“This is a step forward in efforts to free Major League Baseball from its long and deadly association with tobacco,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League and supporter of Faith United Against Tobacco, which had joined dozens of health and medical groups, youth organizations and baseball insiders in urging the Players Association to “Knock Tobacco Out of the Park.”
“We continue to support a complete prohibition on tobacco use at games and on camera. Still this is significant progress,” announced the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. “Baseball players have been using tobacco since the earliest days of the game. This agreement marks the first time that the league and players have recognized it is time to break this unhealthy addiction.”
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said this “very positive step” would help to protect the health “not only of major league players but the millions of young men who idolize them, as major league players have always been idolized by young men in America.”
In a May letter to the Players Association, Faith United Against Tobacco cited a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showing a 36 percent increase in the use of smokeless tobacco by high school boys since 2003. FUAT challenged the players to join Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig in supporting a ban like that in the Minor Leagues, which prohibits tobacco use on the field and in the dugout.
In addition to agreeing to curb tobacco use in front of fans, MLB and the players’ union plan to establish an education and outreach campaign regarding the dangers of smokeless tobacco and will open a center for helping players kick the habit, ESPN reported. The five-year labor agreement is set to take effect in 2012.
“Our hope is that individual players see the new agreement as a starting point and take the next step on their own to completely eliminate their use of smokeless tobacco for their own good and that of their young, impressionable fans,” Dr. Creech added. “This should give them added incentive.”