Category Archives: Chewing tobacco

MLB, union agree to phase in ban on chewing tobacco

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Babe Ruth selling chewing tobacco. Ruth, a lifelong chewer, died of throat cancer in his 50s.

As expected, Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association agreed to a ban on chewing tobacco in baseball, though it’s a bit of a wishy-washy ban because it only applies to incoming players. Basically, they’re going to phase it in.

This means expect to see chew around on the baseball field for the next 10 years, though you will gradually see less and less of it.

It’s a step in the right direction, I suppose, and perhaps the best that could be accomplished going up against a very powerful players’ union. Some tobacco control advocates likely won’t be that thrilled with it, but I would tell them, this is arguably the most powerful union in the country. Getting anything out of them is a win.

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Someone pointed out to me it’s very similar to how batting helmets were introduced into baseball. Existing players who didn’t like them didn’t have to wear them, but new players did (actually, hockey was the same way. You still saw a few old-timers not wearing helmets into the early 90s. The NHL finally made visors mandatory in 2013, but again, existing players who don’t want to wear them are grandfathered in, so you will slowly see visorless players disappear from the game.).

For Libertarians screaming “Freedom of choice!” think of it as a workplace ban. Name a workplace, any workplace, in which chewing tobacco is allowed in the building. Maybe warehouse workers, truck drivers and longshoreman can chew on the job. That’s about it. No one is telling ballplayers they can’t chew if they really want to deal with the gum disease and losing their teeth. They just can’t chew on the job, in the ballpark.

Chewing tobacco has been banned for years in the minor leagues and by the NCAA. In fact, according to this article, it’s not unheard of for players to be thrown out of NCAA games for chewing.

For some reason that no one can really explain, chewing tobacco is deeply entrenched in the culture of baseball. According to this story, 47 percent of NCAA baseball players chew. 47 percent! Keep in mind less than 10 percent of adult males chew tobacco. It really is a baseball thing.

And dying of throat cancer is also a baseball thing — going all the way back to dipper Babe Ruth, who died of throat cancer.

The latest push to ban chew came after Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, a lifelong chewer, died in 2014 of salivary gland cancer. Gwynn advocated against chewing tobacco the last few months of his life, as has Curt Schilling (Yeah, I know he’s a butthead), who survived a pretty serious bout of oral cancer around the same time.

In addition to the MLB ban that will begin next year, several cities have banned chew in ballparks — Boston, New York, Chicago, L.A. and San Francisco (Oakland and San Diego are included in a statewide ban, too, but this ban doesn’t really have an enforcement tool attached).

 

Terry Francona’s body trying to send him a message — finds a tooth in his chew

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Cleveland Indians’ manager Terry Francona, seriously, dude, your body is trying to tell you something. It would behoove you to listen.

Francona is a noted tobacco chewer. He’s publicly spoken about his habit and how hard it is to break. Maybe this will be enough to finally convince him it’s time to quit for good.

The other night during the Indians’ playoff game versus the Blue Jays, Francona’s tooth came out … in his chew.

Yes, he found his tooth in his plug of tobacco. About a 9 1/2 out of 10 on the grossness scale.

From a story:

“Right before the game, I mean, like literally, my lower tooth, the veneer popped out while I was chewing,” Francona told reporters Tuesday. “That thing came off, and I’m chewing, and it felt crunchy. I was like, ‘Uh oh.’ So I undid my tobacco, and there’s my tooth.”

Terry, seriously, man, one of the things chewing tobacco does is destroy gum tissue … meaning that chew likely had something to do with your tooth coming out … in your chew. You really need to try and try again and keep trying until you’re able to quit.

OK, wait until after the World Series is over. I give you that, that you have bigger things on your mind right now.

 

Tony Gwynn’s family files wrongful death lawsuit against Philip Morris

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Interesting story and the first time I’m aware of (I wouldn’t doubt it has happened before, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it) of family suing the tobacco industry because a loved one likely died of someone who died from a chewing habit, rather than a smoking habit,

Tony Gwynn’s family filed the suit in San Diego Superior Court against Altria (formerly Philip Morris). Gwynn died in 2014 at the age of 54 from salivary gland cancer after chewing tobacco for more than 30 years.

From USA Today:

According to the lawsuit, Gwynn became addicted to their products.

“The tobacco industry had a responsibility to disclose the risk they knew of to him,” Gwynn’s attorney David S. Casey told The Associated Press. “They did not. At the time he made a choice with them marketing to try tobacco at a time it was not disclosed that it was dangerous.”

I’ve no idea what the chances are for success in the California court system. In Florida, mostly because of the Engle decision about 10 years ago, a number of families have successfully sued and received multi-million-dollar judgements from tobacco companies for the deaths of their loved ones from smoking. There are more than 8,000 such lawsuits winding their ways through the courts in Florida.

The Engle state supreme court decision overturned a $140 billion class-action judgement against the tobacco industry, but the wording of the decision basically said smokers and their families have the right to sue the industry for damages, but they have to do it on an individual basis, not as a class-action suit. That opened the door to thousands of lawsuits in Florida against Big Tobacco, and so far, several dozen judgements have gone against the industry.

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From a San Diego Union-Tribune story, apparently Gwynn dipped 1 1/2 to 2 cans a day from 1977 to 2008. Oh, man, that’s an insane amount of chewing tobacco. That’s more than 17,500 cans of chewing tobacco.

From the U-T article:

Gwynn’s son, Tony Jr., said his father was used as a “billboard” to promote the product. His father, an eight-time batting champion, was often photographed with a chew in his mouth during his 20-year playing career.

He recalled visiting his father after his playing career ended, in the hospital when the Hall of Famer was being treated for cancer.

“I remember him saying that he wouldn’t want this to happen to anybody else, especially having seen what my mom and sister and the rest of our family was going through with him, you wouldn’t wish that upon anybody,” he said.

The suit says Gwynn was a perfect vehicle for promoting the products to the target audiences.

“They definitely used him as a billboard,” Tony Gwynn Jr. said of his father. “If you were a baseball fan and watched a lot of baseball, one of the things you remember really well is the outline of those Skoal cans or Copenhagen cans in the back of the (players’) pockets. Everybody knew what it was. You were virtually a walking billboard without having to pay them. They got free advertising.”

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Gwynn’s death prompted a push to ban chewing tobacco in Major League Baseball. MLB wants to ban it on the field, but is facing resistance from the Players’ Association. Expect it to be part of the negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement.

Chewing tobacco has been banned in stadiums in New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Chew will be banned in all stadiums in California in 2017, including San Diego and Oakland. Toronto, Minnesota and Pittsburgh are also considering laws or ordinances to ban chewing tobacco in baseball stadiums in those cities.

One thing that could hurt the Gwynn family’s lawsuit. I seem to remember when Gwynn died, some doctors were quoted as saying salivary gland cancer isn’t caused by chewing tobacco. However, Gwynn himself said he never bought that and insisted that the cancer developed in the exact spot in his mouth where he always dipped.

New York City bans chewing tobacco at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field

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Yankee Stadium

As expected (though you never know if a speedbump is going to show up), New York City just banned chewing tobacco at all sporting facilities — this includes Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field.

New York joins Chicago (which just banned chewing tobacco a week ago at Wrigley and Comiskey), Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston in banning chewing tobacco at baseball stadiums — and this includes, players, managers and coaches. Chewing tobacco will be banned in San Diego, Anaheim and Oakland in 2017 as California passed a statewide ban that won’t take effect until next year. Toronto is also expected to pass a similar ban on chew.

It will be interesting to see how stringently these rules will be enforced. There’s actually been some grousing and griping about the ban in Chicago. Interestingly, Boston, San Francisco and New York all the OK from their various Major League teams before going ahead with their bans. From an ESPN.com story:

“I’m into personal freedoms,” Maddon said. “I don’t understand the point with all that. Just eradicate tobacco period if you’re going to go that route. I’m not into over-legislating the human race, so for me I’ll just have to listen and learn.”

Generally, I like Joe Maddon, but what bothers me about his argument against banning chew is the players used similar arguments against drug testing for steroids.  They bitched and moaned about personal freedom over that, too. And to be clear, because this point seems to confuse a lot of people, they’re not saying players can’t chew tobacco … they just can’t chew tobacco while they’re at the ballpark. They can chew on their own time all they want.

The city and statewide bans are part of an effort to get chew out of baseball. It’s been banned for a long time at the NCAA and Minor League levels. However, it’s still allowed at the Major League level because it would take the approval of the Players’ Association to get it off the field and out of the dugouts, and the Players’ Association hasn’t shown any inclination into letting it be banned. Not all the players are happy about banning chew because of issues over personal choice, etc. It appears banning chew league-wide (and the MLB does actually want to ban it) would require it to be done as part of a collective  bargaining agreement.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Chew is a big problem in baseball. Only about 7 percent of men chew tobacco (and about 1 percent of women), but various surveys have shown that as many as 30 percent of professional baseball players chew. it’s been deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball since baseball’s been around.

The push to get it out of the game gained traction with Tony Gwynn’s death a couple of years ago. Gwynn, a longtime chewer, died of salivary gland cancer. Another well-known former player and chewer, Curt Schilling, also recently had a public battle with oral cancer. Both Gwynn and Schilling blamed chew for their cancer.

 

Chicago next city to ban chew at big league ballparks; California ban to take effect in 2017

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Wrigley Field

Chicago is the latest city to consider a ban on chewing tobacco at all sports facilities, and that includes Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park (I suppose Soldier Field, too). That also includes players, managers and coaches.

Chicago will be joining Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and the entire state of California (more on that below) in banning chew at ballparks. New York and Toronto are also considering bans on chew at big league parks and both the Mets and Yankees support the ban, so I don’t expect any roadbumps.

A Chicago City Council committee approved the ban last week, which will be voted on by the full Council sometime this week, possibly Wednesday. The ban would take effect immediately. That would bring the total of Major League ballparks with chewing tobacco bans to nine by 2017.

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Comiskey Park

Cities are pushing forward with these bans in large part because Major League Baseball is seriously dragging its feet in banning chew on the field and in the dugouts. Actually, to be fair, the league itself actually does want to impose a ban, but the Players’ Association are actually holding it up. It will likely require the association’s approval through the collective bargaining process.

The push for bans began after MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, a longtime chewer, died of pituitary gland cancer.  Longtime chewer Curt Schilling also had a recent public battle with oral cancer.

From a Chicago Tribune story:

“Smokeless tobacco destroys the mouth, and the younger you start, the more destruction that’s there and the longer you put cancer-causing chemicals in your mouth, the greater the risk,” Dr. Larry Williams of the Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine told aldermen. “Our young people are going to emulate what they see and what they watch. I commend you for this wonderful opportunity to get it off the TV screen.”

For some mystifying reason, chewing tobacco is deeply entrenched in the culture of baseball. No one knows why. It just is. Like a damned tick. About 7 percent of adult males chew tobacco, but according to several surveys, about 30 percent of baseball players chew.

Chew is already banned at the high school, Minor League and NCAA levels.

There’s a pretty good question about how it will be enforced. Are cops really going to be on the field, handing out tickets to multi-millionaire ballplayers who are pretty used to doing whatever they want. The hope is that through peer pressure, players will do the right thing and put that crap away without resorting to that.

From the Tribune:

“It’s a good question as to how it will be enforced,” (U.S. Senator) Dick Durbin responded. “But I think when the word is out and about and the media can follow what players are doing, that there will be some attention paid to it, and I think that the fact that it is the law, and the fact that there will be peer pressure and observation of what is done, will finally lead us to change.”

Durbin acknowledged “there may be some rough patches at the startup, but ultimately I believe it’s going to be a success, and it’s going to be for the benefit of the ballplayers too.”

Durbin has been lobbying Chicago to impose a ban. His father died of lung cancer when he was a college sophomore.

California ban on chew at ballparks goes in effect in 2017

I can’t believe I totally missed this story. I am not omnipotent, I guess. This is from October of last year. I’m six months late on this story.

I was aware there was a bill in the works in the California State Legislature to ban chewing tobacco at all ballparks in the state, including Major League parks in San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego. (San Francisco and L.A. have already done it, of course).

Well, the bill was actually signed into law in October 2015. However, it doesn’t take effect until 2017 and apparently doesn’t actually have an enforcement mechanism. Teams will be expected to police their players themselves.

From a Christian Science Monitor story:

Christian Zwicky, a former Southern California Babe Ruth League most valuable player who grew up watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play and says he never cared for seeing all that tobacco chewing and the spitting of tobacco juice that follows.

It didn’t influence him to take up the practice, the 22-year-old college student says, but he can see how it might have affected others.

“I understand the sentiment there,” said Zwicky who adds he’s not a big fan of government regulation but supports this law. “You don’t want these people that kids look up to using these products that could influence children in a negative way.”

Madison Bumgarner, a San Francisco Giants pitcher (and damned good one) and Giants manager Bruce Bochy, have both come out in support of the ban in San Francisco. And they’re both chewers. From the CSM:

Last year’s World Series MVP, San Francisco Giant’s pitching ace Madison Bumgarner, also chews tobacco but told The Associated Press earlier this year he planned to quit after San Francisco became the first city in the nation to adopt a ban. That one, like the statewide provision, also takes effect next year.

“I’ll be all right. I can quit,” Bumgarner said in August. “I quit every once in a while for a little while to make sure I can do it.”

“It’s a tough deal for some of these players who have grown up playing with it and there are so many triggers in the game,” San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the AP earlier this year.

“I certainly don’t endorse it,” said Bochy, an on-and-off-again user for decades. “With my two sons, the one thing I asked them is don’t ever start dipping.”

 

Toronto now considering a ban on chew at ballparks; MLB will send out nicotine patches to players and coaches

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Rogers Centre

Toronto is the latest city considering a  chewing tobacco ban at all baseball parks, including the Rogers Centre.

New York is considering a similar ban at Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ Citi Field. Meanwhile, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston have already banned chew by players, coaches, umpires and fans (though I have to believe most of these ballparks weren’t allowing fans to chew because of the clean-up issues.) It appears chew will also be banned soon by the state of California at ballparks in San Diego, Oakland and Anaheim.

In response to chew being banned at as many as six Major League ballparks this summer, Major League Baseball is actually sending out “nicotine therapy” packages to teams for free. These packages will contain nicotine gun, patches and lozenges. This is included in the bottom of this story here. I thought it was pretty funny and could’ve been the lead of its own story.

Getting back to Toronto, the city’s health board is supposed to decide by March 21. From an article on the topic:

“While chewing tobacco has long been part of the culture for many professional sports, especially baseball, research shows that it has very real and serious health consequences,” City Councilor Joe Mihevic said in a release. “We need to be at the forefront of the movement to restrict its use and join with major cities such as L.A., Boston, and New York.”

These proposals are getting some resistance from ballplayers. Roughly about 30 percent of baseball players are believed to be tobacco chewers (versus about 7 percent of adult men in general and less than 1 percent of adult women.).

From the article:

“For some guys, it’s part of their playing routine,” Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross told the Chicago Tribune. “It’s hard to tell somebody what tools they can take to their work.”

Should Major League Baseball ban chewing tobacco? PHOTO: THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Is this Jonny Gomes? I’m not sure. That’s Mike Napoli behind him.
Jake Peavy of the San Francisco Giants agrees. “It’s really, really hard to tell grown men who have been in this game and done it for a long time that they can’t do something that’s legal,” he said. “Old habits die hard.”

Josh Thole, Justin Smoak and Chris Colabello are counted among Toronto Blue Jays who regularly chew tobacco on the field.

Unofficial stats show that the number of players who still chew tobacco has decreased in recent years, from about one-half of players to one-third. Instead, ballparks have gotten into the habit of making chewing gum and sunflower seeds available as alternatives.

Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons quit two years ago, following the death of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn of salivary gland cancer.

“I was a tobacco user for a lot of years. I’m not proud of that. I finally was able to quit. It’s a dirty, filthy habit,” Gibbons told the Toronto Star. “I wouldn’t want my kids doing it. You hope in some way, they can eliminate it and wipe it out.”

Chew being phased out; nicotine kits sent to teams

As Gibbons mentioned Tony Gwynn, it was Gwynn’s death a couple of years ago that provided much of the recent impetus to banning chew on the field. Gwynn was a longtime chewer who blamed his habit for his cancer.

Players were informed this week they will be facing chewing tobacco bans in as many as six stadiums this season and sent out the nicotine therapy packets to every team free of charge (Like guys making $15 million a year need freebies?)

From an AP story:

Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker was a big dipper for a long time. He’s cut back over the years, but still might pop in a pinch when games get tight.

“It’s a bad influence for the kids. Big time. I’ll say that. But also they’re adults, too, at the same time,” Baker said.

“We’ll see,” he said. “My daughter used to put water in my can and put it back in my truck. Or my son, he has lip check — ‘Get it out, Dad!'”

Local laws will prohibit the use of all tobacco products at Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park this year, meaning players, team personnel, umpires and fans. The letter advises the same ban will take effect at every California ballpark in December.

“I support it,” new Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I think that the intentions are there, and there’s obviously going to be some resistance with players.”

“Like it or not, players are role models, and we have a platform as coaches and players. So if that’s the law, then we definitely support it,” he said.

Major League Baseball actually wants to ban chew on the field, but needs the cooperation of the Major League Players’ Association, which has so far not given its OK. Chewing tobacco use is expected to be part of the next contract being negotiated between MLB and the players.

 

New York City may be next to ban chewing tobacco in ballparks

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New York City could be soon joining Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco in banning chewing tobacco in baseball parks.

A bill has been introduced before the New York City Council to ban chewing tobacco in all ballparks in the city, and this includes Yankee Stadium and the Mets’ CitiField. And the ban might be in place by opening day in April.

From a New York Times article:

“If New York passes this bill, and I think it will, it moves us dramatically closer to the day when smokeless tobacco is prohibited in all major league cities,” said Matthew Myers, the president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

According to bill proponent, Councilman Corey Johnson, both the Yankees and the Mets are behind the bill.

I’m guessing with neither team opposing the bill and with the fact that New York City is one of the most anti-tobacco cities in the nation (The city has extremely high cigarette taxes and very strict smoking bans, thanks in large part to former mayor Michael Bloomberg, an anti-smoking zealot.), odds are this bill will pass. In San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, bills in all three cities easily passed. Johnson says that he is hoping the bill will take effect before the beginning of baseball season in April.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 07: A general view of game between the New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on April 7, 2012 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

This bill is just the latest salvo by cities to force the Major League Players Association to ban chewing tobacco on the field. Chew is already banned on the field at the Minor League and NCAA levels and Major League Baseball has made it clear that it wants to ban chew on the field, too — however, the Players’ Association has to agree to it through the collective bargaining process.

When contacted for a comment by the Times, Mets’ third baseman David Wright responded:

 “On one hand, I would argue we are adults and that’s a choice we choose to make,” he wrote in an email. “On the other hand, we are role models and the last thing we want is for an underage kid to begin using because they watched their favorite players do it.”

I’d guess I’d respond to David no one is saying you can’t chew — you just can’t do it on the field during the games, just like you can’t smoke. Back in the day, players and managers used to actually smoke cigarettes in the dugout, but cigarettes on the field were banned by baseball many years ago. No one really seems to care about that.

In addition to San Francisco, Boston, L.A. and apparently soon New York, chew may be banned soon in San Diego and Oakland baseball parks because a bill is being considered by the California State Assembly to ban chew in all ballparks in the state.

Chew is a big problem among baseball players. A much, much higher percentage of baseball players use chew than the general population. It’s for some reason deeply ingrained into the culture of baseball. The issue of chew in baseball has been brought to the forefront somewhat by the recent death of Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer and the recent battle by Curt Schilling against oral cancer.

 

Los Angeles bans chewing tobacco at ballparks, including Dodger Stadium

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Professor Farnsworth says, Big news, everyone!

The city of Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the country, just banned chewing tobacco at all athletic venues. This includes Dodger Stadium. And this includes ballplayers … on the field.

L.A. is the third major city to ban chewing tobacco at ballparks — the first two being San Francisco and Boston. I’m pretty sure chewing tobacco has long since been banned in the stands, but it’ll be interesting to see if they actually enforce these laws against players and coaches (and managers, etc.).

In essence, I think these are basically symbolic gestures, because I honestly can’t imagine cops running out on the field to write tickets to players with an obvious chaw in their cheek. Symbolic because MLB has actually made it pretty clear it wants to ban chew on the field and in the dugouts, but the Players’ Association is fighting it.

Before you scream, “FREEEEDOM!”, keep in mind that chew has long been banned by the NCAA and in the Minor Leagues. The only reason it’s allowed at the Major League level is because the Players’ Association hasn’t agreed to  a ban. I expect it to be seriously negotiated during the next collective bargaining agreement, though I can’t predict how that will turn out.

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Curt Schilling and Tony Gwynn.

Banning chew at the MLB is a real issue, I believe. Studies have shown that baseball players at every level — high school, college, Minor League, freaking American Legion even — use chew at a higher level than non-ballplayers. Chew is weirdly deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball. No one understands why or how, but all they know is … there it is.

Banning chew in baseball gained traction when Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, a longtime chewer, died of salivary gland cancer in his early 50s. Then, shortly after his death, longtime chewer Curt Schilling announced he was battling oral cancer. Schilling seems to be doing well, other than occasionally being kind of an insufferable Muslim-hating asshole. (Seriously, dude, I’m honestly glad you are beating cancer and thank you for the bloody sock game and thank you for your anti-chew advocacy, but Jesus, you cheated death … learn to drop your bullshit about 1.6 million Muslims. Guess what? Muslims love Jesus, too. And maybe that’s what got you demoted at ESPN and maybe that’s a reason you can’t quite get in the Hall of Fame. Karma … it’s not just for Buddhists.)

 

Boston bans chewing tobacco in Fenway Park — MLB Players’ Association, your move

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Boston has joined San Francisco in banning chewing tobacco in all ballparks, including Major League Ballparks like Fenway.

The move is, I believe, part of a push to force the Major League Baseball Players’ Association to accept a league-wide ban on chewing tobacco. Chewing tobacco is already banned by the NCAA and in Minor League Baseball. MLB can’t ban chewing tobacco on the field or in the dugouts without the cooperation of the MLB Players’ Association. The issue of chew is set to be negotiated between the Players’ Association and MLB during the next contract discussions this off-season.

This legislation, which will take effect in April 2016, won’t really affect fans, because tobacco use is already banned within the stadium, according to the Boston Globe. It is a somewhat symbolic measure directed at the players and coaches on the field and in the dugouts.

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In addition to San Francisco and Boston, the city of L.A. is considering a similar ban, which would affect players and coaches chewing at Dodger Stadium. There is also a bill in the California State Assembly to ban it all ballparks in the entire state.

From the Boston Globe article:

“These great baseball cities have set a powerful example that should be quickly followed by all of Major League Baseball,” said a statement from Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Chewing tobacco is deeply entrenched in the culture of baseball. One recent survey showed that about 30 percent of baseball players chew tobacco, while only about 7 percent of men overall chew.

Red Sox owner John Henry supports the ban. It will be interesting to see if David Ortiz will drop the chew once the ban takes effect next year. Ortiz is beloved in Boston for not putting up with authority and he is a known chewer.

 

Boston mayor proposes ban on chewing tobacco at Fenway Park, other ballfields

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Well, right on the heels of my story about the New York Times writing about San Francisco’s ban on ballpark chewing tobacco, the major of Boston, Martin Walsh, is now proposing a similar ban on chewing tobacco at Boston parks and ballfields, which include Fenway Park.

Walsh said he is proposing an ordinance banning smokeless tobacco beginning April 1, 2016, in time for next season (San Francisco’s ban is taking effect Jan. 1, 2016.)

There’s been a big push to ban chewing tobacco on baseball fields since the death last year of Tony Gwynn. Gwynn, a longtime chewer, died of salivary gland cancer in his early 50s. Boston pitcher Curt Schilling also had a very public battle last year with a serious bout of oral cancer. Schilling, likewise, used to chew tobacco.

From the Boston Globe article:

“A lot of times, young people will copy what their sports heroes do, and clearly there is a connection between chewing tobacco and cancer,” Walsh said in an interview. “This sends a strong message throughout Boston, and hopefully many other towns around Boston, and across the country.”

Chewing tobacco is deeply, deeply ingrained in the culture of baseball for some mystifying reason. According to the Globe, 21 out of 58 Red Sox players surveyed at Spring Training said they use smokeless tobacco. That’s pretty close in line with a survey of professional baseball trainers, who estimate that about one-third of ballplayers chew. Meanwhile, only 6 percent of adult males among the general population chew.

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According to the Globe, Red Sox owner John Henry supports Walsh’s idea.

Interestingly, Schilling, an openly conservative Republican, also supports Walsh’s idea. From the Globe:

Schilling, who is expected to attend the mayor’s announcement at Joe Moakley Park, said he supports the prohibition on chewing tobacco.

“I have seen cancer take the lives of people very important to me like my father, a lifelong smoker, and I have endured the insufferable agony of radiation to the head and neck,” Schilling said in a statement. “If this law stops just one child from starting, it’s worth the price.

The Boston Globe also added an opinion piece, written by Dr. Howard K. Koh and Dr. Alan C. Woodward, in favour of the ban.  Koh and Woodward point out that not only did Tony Gwynn die likely as a result of his chewing, but Babe Ruth, who chewed and smoked cigars, died in his early 50s from throat cancer.

From this opinion piece:

Despite this progress, the national rate of smokeless tobacco use in high school has stayed disturbingly steady. In the US, nearly 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless tobacco. More than half a million youth try smokeless tobacco for the first time. Smokeless tobacco companies annually spend $435 million on marketing. A key message of such advertising is that boys can’t be real men unless they chew. Also, scores of Major League Baseball players who chew or dip in front of fans provide invaluable free advertising for the industry. Impressionable kids stand ready to imitate their every move.

For too long, the tobacco industry has normalized and glamorized products that cause drug dependence, disability, and death. Leveraging the prestige and appeal of baseball has been an essential part of that strategy. It’s time for baseball to start a new chapter that reclaims tobacco-free parks as the new norm — and for Boston, home to so many sports achievements, to lead the way.

Ultimately, in order to really drive tobacco out of Major League baseball, it would take the cooperation and agreement of the Players’ Association. Chew is already banned on the field in Minor League and NCAA baseball. However, the Players’ Association has opposed banning it at the Major League level. The issue is expected to be negotiated during the players’ next collective bargaining agreement with Major League Baseball.