Two US Democratic senators made an appeal to ban the use of tobacco, including smokeless products, in professional baseball, citing the athletes' role-model appeal to young Americans.
Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Frank Lautenberg made the appeal in letters to the sport's commissioner, Bud Selig, as well as the head of the players association, Michael Weiner.
"We write to ask that Major League Baseball (MLB) prohibit the use of tobacco products on the field, the dugout, and the lockers rooms at all venues," wrote the lawmakers.
"While tobacco companies spend millions on ads tailored to attract young people to use tobacco products, MLB is undoubtedly complicit in attracting many young people to try smokeless tobacco after seeing their baseball heroes chew tobacco," said the lawmakers.
The senators, who underlined that baseball banned tobacco use 28 years ago in its minor leagues, said tobacco-related products killed 443,000 Americans each year, and each day 1,000 American children and teens become regular smokers.
"The use of smokeless tobacco by baseball players undermines the positive image of the sport and sends a dangerous message to young fans, who may be influenced by the players they look up to as role models," they said.
The senators said the ban should be part of a new collective bargaining agreement due to result from talks that open in December.
Durbin and Lautenberg also wrote to Washington Nationals star pitcher Stephen Strasburg to praise him for publicly vowing to quit chewing tobacco.
"Your individual decision to quit smokeless tobacco, not only for your health, but to set a positive image for the young people who look up to you and watch baseball, is laudable. We want to encourage you to stick with it," they said.
"Baseball fans will notice. Your example could prevent disease and disability and save a few lives," they wrote.