Congress Pressures Major League Baseball to Ban Chewing Tobacco

Congress Pressures Major League Baseball to Ban Chewing Tobacco Congress is meddling in baseball affairs once again. And this time Roger Clemens is not involved.

Legislature's next item on the docket is banning chewing tobacco from the major leagues, The Associated Press reports.

Here's the argument put forth by former major leaguer and anti-tobacco advocate Joe Garagiola, who testified in the congressional hearing.

"I would like the players … who are role models, I don't care what anybody says … to quit carrying a can of dip in their uniform pockets," Garagiola said. "Why can't baseball and the players' association right here get together and ban it? Take it off the field. Tobacco is tobacco is tobacco. … Get it out of our game."

Sure, our government is attempting to prevent players and impressionable fans from ending up like this guy, but chewing tobacco has been in the dugouts for decades.

"Good luck," San Francisco Giants reliever Brandon Medders told the AP. "Guys do what they do. We work outside. It's been part of the game for 100 years."

California Democrat Henry Waxman, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone, chairman of the Health Subcommittee, met on Wednesday in an effort to pressure MLB to prohibit tobacco products such as dip and chew from major league games.

"We don't let baseball players go stand out there in the field and drink beer," Waxman said to open the hearing. "Major League Baseball won't allow them to step on the field and smoke cigarettes. So why should they be out there on the field — in sight of all their fans on television and at the ballpark — using smokeless tobacco?"

MLB's executive VP Robert Manfred and Players' Association chief labor counsel David Prouty agreed with lawmakers that these habits are harmful, but also noted that a ban would have to be agreed upon through collective bargaining, which could prove difficult.

According to Examiner.com, approximately one-third of big leaguers chew tobacco based on statistics put out by Harvard University professor Gregory Connolly.

Unfortunately for Medders and other tobacco users, Congress has seen successful in its past restriction efforts. Smoking while in uniform is already banned across all levels of baseball, and smokeless tobacco was banned in the minors in 1993. 

"For them to pull it off in the minors really surprised me," Twins reliever Pat Neshek told the AP. "We'll see if that gains much traction."

Neshek does not chew tobacco himself, but remembers players in the minor leagues getting around the rules.

"People would still do it," he said. "I don't know if they'd mix it in with their gum or something like that."

For this season, tins in back pockets and bulging lips will remain untouched, but after the labor contract expires in December 2011, many ballplayers may have to make the switch to Big League Chew.

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