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Chaw No More: San Fran Seeks to Ban Smokeless Tobacco in MLB Games

6 May, 2015

By: Tracey Schelmetic

Long before most of the rest of the nation, California was the first to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and common outdoor areas such as parks. Now, the City of San Francisco may be first to ban another form of tobacco from sports stadiums: the smokeless variety, which has a strong association with baseball.

And yes, that sound you heard was the collective grumbling from the dugout. More on that in a minute.

The new rule, which still has to pass the city’s Board of Supervisors, would ban chewing tobacco from ball fields throughout the city, including at AT&T Park, where the Dodgers and Giants are playing a three-game series this week, according to the Los Angeles Times. Supporters say it’s for the health and comfort of game attendees, and to set a good sporting example of young fans of baseball. Minor League Baseball already has unilateral ban on the use of smokeless tobacco.

“San Francisco will send a simple and strong message," said Supervisor Mark Farrell, author of the ordinance. "Tobacco use in sports will no longer harm our youth, our health."

While the use of smokeless tobacco may not be as popular as it was in the days of yore – Babe Ruth was a fan of it – it’s still used by some players and fans. Major League Baseball (MLB), however, has come out on the side of the ban.

"As we have repeatedly and publicly acknowledged, MLB has long supported a ban of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level," the league said in a statement, "and we intend to comply with all applicable laws regarding the use of smokeless tobacco on the field in all of our ballparks."

Smokeless tobacco, which includes chewing tobacco, snuff (finely ground tobacco), snus and dissolvable tobacco lozenges, is often embraced by users as being safer than smoking. It does, however, contain nicotine, which presents health risks (including addition) and can cause cancer, gum disease, heart disease and mouth lesions. Vaping, or using tobacco or flavored substances in a smokeless vaporizer “e-cigarette,” is already illegal in AT&T Park.

Despite support from MLB, the organization’s player’s association may not be so keen on the ban. In fact, it’s probably fair to say many players consider it tantamount to blasphemy. According to the LA Times, the Major League Baseball Players Association union rejected a ban on smokeless tobacco use by players during the last round of collective bargaining.

“However, management and the union agreed to forbid the use of smokeless tobacco in televised interviews and player appearances, to restrict players from carrying tobacco products in their uniforms, to develop and implement educational programs to demonstrate the health risks of tobacco use, and to provide resources to any player wishing to quit,” wrote the LA Times’ David Wharton.

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