The Washington Times - February 15, 2011, 01:01PM

Two Democratic senators have asked Major League Baseball and its players union to ban tobacco products on the field, in the dugout and in the locker rooms at MLB venues.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey said the use of smokeless tobacco by baseball players undermines the positive image of the sport and sends a dangerous message to impressionable young fans who look up to professional baseball players as role models.

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“It has been 28 years since the MLB ended tobacco use in its minor leagues, and it is time to extend that policy throughout MLB’s venues and events,” said the senators in a Tuesday letter to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner.

“We now know conclusively that smokeless tobacco endangers the health of baseball players who use it, but it also affects millions of young people who watch baseball.”

The senators cited a recent National Youth Risk Behavior Survey that found the use of smokeless tobacco products has increased by 36 percent among high school boys since 2003.

“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,” the senators said.