At a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman -- a California Democrat -- and Health Subcommittee chairman Frank Pallon -- a New Jersey Democrat -- called on MLB and its players to stop using chew, dip or similar products during games.
In response, MLB executive vice president Robert Manfred and MLBPA chief labor counsel David Prouty told lawmakers that while they agree that smokeless tobacco is harmful, any ban would have to be agreed upon through collective bargaining, and they're willing to talk about it during future negotiations, The Associated Press reported.
Baseball's labor contract expires in December 2011. Smokeless tobacco is currently banned in the Minor Leagues, but not in the Majors.
"While an outright ban on the use of smokeless tobacco in the Major Leagues is a laudable goal, it will have to be pursued against the backdrop of these legal realities," Manfred told the committee.
After the hearing, Prouty told the AP, "I can tell you, anecdotally, there are plenty of players who are against [the use of tobacco], who think, 'Of course it should be banned.' There are plenty of players who use it. Do they think it should be banned? I don't know. We can go back to the players and say, 'Congress feels strongly about this. You ought to think about it. Look what's happened on other issues Congress felt strongly about.'"
Manfred cited the efforts MLB has made for years, including the 1993 ban of tobacco use by team personnel, both players and staff, at Minor League ballparks and during team travel.
Also, clubs may not permit the distribution of tobacco products in team clubhouses. However, use of smokeless tobacco remains prevalent in the Majors.
No current Major Leaguers were in attendance during the hearing, but former catcher Joe Garagiola was there and spoke against the use of tobacco, the AP added.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.