U.S. Congress discusses elimination of tobacco use by Major Leagne Baseball players..

Rick Bender former baseball player with part of mouth removed - Philip Morris/R.J. Reynolds safer than cigarettes but where's the tongue??

April 15, 2010 - Executives from Major League Baseball and the players' association joined U.S. public-health officials to testify before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday, April 14th on the prevalence of smokeless tobacco and whether its use by professional athletes influences children.

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said Major League Baseball and the players' union should "take action to end the use of smokeless tobacco by big-league players."

"Like many generations of Major League Baseball players, I started using spit tobacco because I saw other players doing it, and I thought it was part of being a major-league player," said Joe Garagiola, a television announcer and former player. "This is a dangerous, deadly habit." (The National Spit Tobacco Education Program..)

Tobacco of all kinds is banned in minor-league baseball, a policy Garagiola urged major-league players to adopt. While major-league players aren't allowed to smoke cigarettes in uniform in view of spectators, chewing tobacco is different, said David Prouty, chief labor counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Prouty said. "Baseball players should not be prohibited from using substances that are perfectly legal and available to the general public." Tobacco companies led by Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds argue they should be allowed to market smokeless products as a safer alternative to cigarettes. "Some adults who would otherwise continue smoking may be willing to move to a smokeless-tobacco alternative to cigarettes," said James Dillard, a senior vice president at Altria Group, which owns Philip Morris. "Smokeless-tobacco products are substantially lower on the risk continuum than cigarettes."

Health officials say they worry chewing tobacco will have the opposite effect: that it may act as a gateway to cigarettes, and that children could become addicted to tobacco by emulating its use by baseball players.

Nine of every 10 people who die from mouth and throat cancers used tobacco, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Tobacco products also are linked to higher rates of gum disease, one of the leading causes of adult tooth loss, the ADA said in an October letter to the FDA.

Terry Pechacek of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Deborah Winn of the National Cancer Institute testified about the links between smokeless tobacco and cancer, and the addictiveness of smokeless tobacco. Pechacek said smokeless tobacco can cause oral cancer and pancreatic cancer, and has been linked to fatal heart attacks.

Banning use would require negotiations with the players union, said Robert Manfred, an executive vice president for Major League Baseball.

VIDEO - Don't Dip Snuff / The Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco....

Reference: MLB asked to chew on tobacco ban by Meg Tirrell, Bloomberg News - The Seattle Times (Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.), 4/14/2010.