Sports Editor

What started out as a simple posting on a message board quickly turned into a rule change for an area youth league.

After a board meeting last week, the Moore Youth Baseball Association announced that a tobacco ban has been placed on all its fields starting Aug. 1.

Under the direction of newly elected MYBA president Chuck Lewis, the board voted unanimously to put the ban into effect beginning with the fall schedule. That gives the organization time to get signs ready and for patrons to get used to the new rule.

It was Steve Hall, an MYBA board member and coordinator for the league's 4-5 year-old division, who posted a message on the league's Web site May 21 calling for a ban.

"On behalf of the age 4-5 year old players and members, I am proposing a tobacco ban at our ballpark and asking for the support of our members," Hall's message stated. "While this should be a no-brainer, our current rule of no smoking within 10 feet of a dugout does not work and should be rewritten to completely ban the use of tobacco within the outer fences of the ballpark."

Hall's request started a brushfire of responses, which reached 10 pages.

Even though Hall knew not every member of the association would read the message board, he believed it would start a needed discussion.

"I think the ball park is for children," Hall said. "It's a healthy lifestyle we want our kids to live up to. I don't think their is any parent that wants their kids to pick up a tobacco habit."

One of the Web site messages from Hall contained a letter he said he received from Moore Assistant City Attorney K.O. Williams. Williams came out in favor of the ban.

"I can remember as a child in the 1950 and early 1960's, watching cigarette commercials on television," Williams said. "We liked to play grown-up and act like our heroes. I started smoking in high school along with most of my friends. There's no doubt that children emulate adults. I recently watched the Texas high school baseball playoffs on television. I was amazed at the number of players, high school athletes, that I observed chewing tobacco or dipping snuff. I thought at the time, they're mimicking Major League players they have seen.

"I applaud your effort to establish voluntary smoking bans at youth sports events. I think it's the right thing to do and it is consistent with the intent of the law."

While many favored the ban, there were those who opposed the out right elimination of smoking.

"I don't know if there is a lot," Hall said. "I think there is a few people concerned that this is another way to restrict individual rights."

The MYBA is being helped by Candida A. Manion, Coordinator for the Communities of Excellence Tobacco Control and Prevention Program in Cleveland County. Her organization is providing the no tobacco signs and also helped prepare Hall before he spoke at the board meeting.

Manion said the MYBA's anti-tobacco's stance is just falling in step with the City of Moore, which created new city laws to match the state of Oklahoma.

"The two state laws are: Oklahoma Smoking in Public Places and Indoor Workplaces Act and Oklahoma Prevention of Youth Access to Tobacco Act," Manion said. "The local ordinances in Moore were mirrored to the state law thus giving enforcement power to the local law enforcement agencies."

The MYBA is not alone in taking a tobacco free stance. Moore Public Schools has enacted Manion's 24-7 policy which prohibits tobacco use by students, staff and visitors at all school sponsored events, on school property and in school vehicles.

"Tobacco Free policies send a loud and clear message that tobacco use and sports don't mix, and that tobacco use is not a norm in the community," Manion said. "And that we need to provide kids with a healthy environment, and this positive health messages should come from our role models - parents, coaches and visitors to the baseball parks."

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