Category Archives: San Francisco

San Francisco ban on flavoured tobacco, e-cig products goes to ballot

Candy-flavoured e-cig products.

The city of San Francisco a while ago banned all sweet-flavoured tobacco products. This included menthol cigarettes, Swisher sweet cigars and candy-flavoured e-cigs.

A group challenged the ban and gathered enough signatures to put the issue on a ballot, asking that this ban be repealed. This movement is called, “Let’s Be Real, San Francisco.”

People behind the repeal are mostly small grocers –the Arab American Grocers Association, a number of vaping outlets and (of course) the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (which is probably funded by Big Tobacco)

According to CBS:

Funded almost entirely by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the committee was able to collect almost $700,000 in contributions and collect just under 20,000 valid signatures in barely a month after the ordinance was signed in early July..

Yeah … so my old pal, RJR is really behind this, not the Arab American Grocers Association.

Anyway, the Board of Supervisors for San Francisco had the opportunity to repeal their decision, but declined, meaning the whole issue will go to a public vote.

The issue could go to a vote by June 2018. Now, looking at how Big Tobacco just got their ass kicked in California, I’m cautiously optimistic that this measure will fail (which means the ban will stay in place).

Flavoured tobacco products is a pet peeve of mine because it’s fairly blatant at times these products are marketed to help get teens hooked on tobacco. Candy-flavoured cigarettes have been banned for years, but not menthols (which are popular with black smokers) and not candy-flavoured e-cig products. The e-cig issue is near and dear to me because the use of e-cigs by teens has skyrocketed in the past five or six years, and it pisses me off to see cherry-flavoured, orange-flavoured and raspberry-flavoured liquid nicotine being sold to teenagers at minimarts. When the FDA began regulating e-cigs, the agency pointedly avoided dealing with the issue of candy-flavoured e-cig products. Maybe San Francisco can lead the way.

 

 

Now it’s John Brodie’s turn for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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I was glad Ken Stabler finally got in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, unfortunately a few months after his death, but it was long overdue. Granted, his great period of play was pretty short — only about five or six years — but he was one of the great and most iconic quarterbacks of the 1970s, a Super Bowl champion and MVP.

This column was originally going to be about Stabler and another player who has been ignored by the Hall of Fame committee. I’m glad Stabler got in (as well as Eddie DeBartolo, who was one of the great owners in the history of the NFL), but I wish the NFL would correct another great oversight, a real injustice in my view. When I was a kid, one of the great quarterbacks in the NFL was a guy named John Brodie.

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Ken Stabler finally got in the Hall of Fame after 33 years, seven months after his death.

I’m amazed at how many people don’t realize Brodie isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s in a  bunch of Hall of Fames — the NCAA Hall of Fame, the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, the Multi-Ethnic Sports Hall of Fame (which is based in the Bay Area), but not the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It makes no sense to me. He’s part of a great legacy of 49er quarterbacks from Frankie Albert to Y.A. Tittle to Brodie to Montana to Young. (Frankie Albert is another great quarterback passed over by the Hall of Fame, though his career was really short due to World War II, only about seven years.). In fact, this article says the 49ers have the fourth-best quarterbacking legacy in the NFL, and the story doesn’t even mention Frankie Albert or another very good quarterback, Jeff Garcia.

All I can think of is Brodie has simply been forgotten about. I see Brodie as the Gil Hodges of the NFL. A really great player who has been largely overlooked, at least outside the Bay Area, where he’s literally a legend. The 49ers retired his number decades ago, though Trent Dilfer wore his number for a while with the 49ers to help lobby for getting Brodie into the Hall of Fame.). He was nominated by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce for the Hall of Fame in July of last year, but I was really disappointed that yet again, the Hall overlooked him.

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The 49ers have a legacy of great quarterbacking, from Frankie Albert to Y.A. Tittle, John Brodie, Joe Montana and Steve Young.

Here’s some things about Brodie I bet a lot of people don’t realize. When John Brodie retired in 1973, he was:

* Third all-time in passing yardage in the history of the NFL with 31,548 yards. Only Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton were ahead of him. That’s it, just Unitas and Tarkenton. Think about that!

* Fourth all-time in the NFL in passing touchdowns with 214. Only Unitas, Tarkenton and Sonny Jurgensen were ahead of him.

* Seventh all-time in wins as a starting quarterback with 74.

These rankings don’t include Len Dawson, Tittle or John Hadl because Hadl and Dawson racked up most of their stats in the AFL and Tittle played a couple of years in the All-American Football Conference. These are strictly NFL numbers, but still — third all-time in yards and fourth in TD passes? (Even including these guys who played in other leagues, Brodie still ends up fifth all-time in yards and seventh all-time in touchdowns at the time of his retirement.)

In addition, he:

* Won the NFL MVP in 1970 and was a first-team All Pro (he made two Pro Bowls total). In 1970, he was simply the best quarterback in football, hands down.

* Led the league in touchdown passes twice, led the league in passing yardage three times, led the league in completions three times, led the league in completion percentage twice, led the league in passer rating once and led the league in yards per attempt once.

His career passer rating wasn’t spectacular at 72.3, but for his time, that was pretty good — it’s higher than Hall of Famers Bobby Layne, Joe Namath, Bob Waterfield, George Blanda and Terry Bradshaw. Y.A. Tittle was 74.3. Stabler 75.3. Even Unitas, considered the best quarterback of that era, was 78.2. Not that much higher.

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John Brodie and Sonny Jurgensen ended their careers with very similar numbers. Jurgensen is in the Hall, but Brodie isn’t. Check out those weird Washington uniforms.

The only real knock on Brodie is he didn’t win any championships. He didn’t play on bad teams for most of his 49ers’ career, but he played on mediocre teams, and back then, it was extremely hard to make the playoffs, so he only started five postseason games in his career. Brodie played from 1957 to 1973 and only two NFL teams made the postseason until 1967, then after that only four out of 16 teams made the postseason. Teams commonly went 10-4 and missed the postseason back in those days. Guess what? Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen never started a playoff game in his entire career.

So, in my opinion, you can’t beat him up for playing on mediocre teams in the 1960s. The 49ers were usually one of the top offensive teams in the NFL during his era (they led the NFL in scoring twice during Brodie’s tenure, were fourth two other times and sixth two other times), but they also usually had poor defenses. I checked and virtually every year in the 1960s, the 49ers were always 9th, 10th, 11th, 13th, etc. in scoring defense. Here’s just some of the scores those teams lost by — 20-61, 28-34, 41-42, 31-39, 34-35, 28-31, 21-33, 30-41, 24-45, 38-43, 20-30 (and a 30-30 tie) — and man that was in the 1960s … in the NFL, not AFL. They just had no defence for years. Their defence was never in the upper half of the NFL for about eight straight years. Still, without much help on the other side of the ball, Brodie managed to go a respectable 74-77-8 for his career. It’s not like he was Norm Snead filling a roster spot on a bad team year in and year out. Those 49er teams in the ’60s could light it up. They just couldn’t stop anyone.

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John Brodie in some 1970s George Peppard TV show called “Banachek:

He finally got to play with a decent defense in the early 1970s, winning three straight division titles from 1970-72. He won two postseason games and played in two NFC Championship games, losing twice to Dallas in 1970 and 1971. Then, he lost a legendary heartbreaker to Dallas again in the divisional playoffs 30-28 in 1972 when the 49ers had a 28-13 lead in the fourth quarter (I think this is one of the first NFL games I remember watching). That Cowboys team went to two Super Bowls and won one of them, so they were a serious powerhouse. Brodie and the 49ers simply couldn’t get past them. They likely would have won a Super Bowl or two if they could’ve. And I wouldn’t even be writing this post because Brodie would be in the Hall.

I think the most amazing thing about Brodie is he threw for 31,500 yards in an era in which teams hardly threw the ball, especially in the NFL, because the rules at the time didn’t allow for today’s wide-open passing games. This was also an era of 12- (until 1960) and 14-game seasons. So, to get to 30,000 yards in that grind-it-out period of running offences is really impressive (By comparison, Bart Starr threw for 24,700 yards and he started 156 games.).

On top of everything else, though it really shouldn’t matter for the  Hall of Fame … it’s just interesting …  he also turned into a champion golfer on the PGA Seniors Tour. He actually beat Chi Chi Rodriguez in a playoff once to win a PGA Seniors Tournament event, and had 12 top 10 finishes on the tour.

So, here’s one of the strangest things I don’t get about why Brodie’s been ignored for the Hall of Fame. I check the numbers and you know whose stats are really similar to Brodie’s? Sonny Jurgensen. Jurgensen played on mostly mediocre teams during the same era for Washington. His won-loss record as a starter was 69-73-7. And as I mentioned earlier, not a single playoff start. He did get to play on some good playoff Washington teams in the ’70s, but as a backup to Billy Kilmer. Jurgensen ended up only throwing for 700 more career yards than Brodie. He did throw a few more touchdowns — 255 vs. 214 — but Jurgensen also never won an MVP. So some of their numbers are virtually the same. In fact, Tarkenton, Brodie and Jurgensen really were the three dominant quarterbacks in the NFL from 1965-1970 (Unitas faded quite a bit after 1967).

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Trent Dilfer is a big advocate of enshrining John Brodie in the Hall of Fame.

Yet, Jurgensen was elected in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. What gives? Again, I scratch my head.

Bob Griese, whose career overlapped with Brodie’s by a few years, ended up with 25,092 passing yards and 192 touchdown passes and not once passed for as much as 2,500 yards in a season. He was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1990. I guess because he did a really good job of handing the ball off to Larry Csonka in a couple of Super Bowls. A high profile helps apparently. You’ll never convince me Griese was a better quarterback than Brodie.

John is getting pretty old. He’s 80 years old and had a major stroke in 2000.  I sure hope the Hall doesn’t make the same mistake they made with Kenny Stabler, of waiting until after a guy passes away to put him in the Hall of Fame.

Philadelphia proposes banning tobacco sales in drug stores

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The mayor of Philadelphia last week proposed banning tobacco sales in pharmacies and drug stores.

This story jogged my memory that I think San Francisco did the same thing. Sure enough, San Francisco did ban tobacco sales in pharmacies, in fact some time ago — 2008 — longer ago than I remember.

City councilwoman Marian Tasco submitted the bill on behalf of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

Nutter is a longtime anti-smoking advocate. He advocated for a state bill allowing Philadelphia to impose a $2 a pack cigarette tax (Wow, the Pennsylvania cigarette tax is $1.60 a tax, so that’s a $3.60 tax on a pack of cigarettes in Philadelphia — cigarettes have to be pretty pricey there.). He also signed a bill banning smoking in parks and as a city councilman, pushed for a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. (The state of Pennsylvania has a very weak smoking ban that still allows smoking in bars.)

CVS Pharmacies recently banned all tobacco sales at its chain of drug stores nationwide. The chain has reported that the move has not hurt its overall revenues and has urged other drug store chains to do the same. CVS also dropped out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because that group has been lobbying around the world to loosen nations’ laws restricting tobacco marketing and packaging.

So, it sounds like Philadelphia is vying with New York City and San Francisco to be one of the most smoking-unfriendly cities in the U.S. San Francisco, which recently banned chewing tobacco at AT&T Park, isn’t particularly friendly to tobacco in general.

 

 

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.

New York Times takes on chewing tobacco in baseball

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I’ve written extensively about this in the past year — about the push to get chew out of baseball. The New York Times just published a story about, joining other major newspapers like the Los Angeles Times in exploring the stubborn tradition of chewing tobacco in baseball.

Chewing tobacco is for whatever reason deeply entrenched in the culture of baseball. Baseball player chew at a much higher rate than the general population. According to the Professional Baseball Trainers Association, one-third of ballplayers chew tobacco, down from about half a few years ago. However, that’s still considerably higher than the general population of adult men, of which only about 6 percent chew. (Virtually no women chew for whatever reason, probably because it’s so gross.).

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AP photo

Tony Gwynn’s death last year of salivary gland cancer and Curt Schilling’s battle with oral cancer have sparked the most recent debate about chew in baseball. Chew is already banned on the field and in the dugouts in the NCAA and Minor League Baseball. San Francisco banned all tobacco chewing in AT&T Park (even including players and coaches) beginning next year and a bill has been introduced in the California State Assembly to ban chewing tobacco in all ballparks in California (this would affect the A’s, Dodgers, Padres and Angels, as well as visiting teams). We’re talking chew on the field or in the dugout; they can’t ban players from chewing on their own time.

Though chew has been banned in the Minor Leagues and NCAA for many years now, it’s still allowed in Major League Baseball (Though, get this, players are banned from chewing tobacco while conducting television interviews.). It would take an agreement with the Player’s Association through the collective bargaining process to get chew off the field and the dugouts.

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Getty image

The New York Times went to San Francisco to talk to Giants’ players and coaches. Pitcher Jake Peavey said players won’t be able to stop chewing because it’s so addictive and will probably have to pay a lot of fines. Madison Bumgarner, who earlier came out in favour of the law, is a “dipper” and he said he could quit. Yankees’ pitcher CC Sabathia chews and said he would follow the law and not chew while playing in San Francisco (or California if the state passes a law.).

From the article:

Andrew Susac, the Giants’ backup catcher, receives emails from his mother relaying horror stories about people who have had parts of their jaw removed because of the effects of tobacco use. Susac tried gum and sunflower seeds as alternatives, but they did not suffice, he said. He tried a nontobacco imitation, but that did not work, either. He tried using pouches of coffee grinds, but they made him jittery.

Susac guessed that he dipped five times a day during the season, including in the morning, after lunch, on the bench during a game, and on his ride home. At another point during the day, whenever he gets an urge, he dips once more.

“Half the time I do it, I don’t have a real reason to,” Susac said. “It’s part of the game, I feel like. You come to the field, get bored or whatever, and just throw in a dip.”

One of the San Francisco County Supervisors who passed the ordinance, Mark Farrell, said he has actually seen youth coaches chewing tobacco in front of players.

From the article:

Mark Farrell, the member of the Board of Supervisors who sponsored the ordinance, started using tobacco while he played college baseball at Loyola Marymount. In his freshman year, he said, he was one of only two players on the team who did not. He kept the habit through law school and has since quit. But now, raising two boys, he has seen youth coaches using tobacco in front of children.

“This almost becomes a self-enforcing mechanism, just by passing this,” Farrell said. “Coaches don’t want to be out on our park fields proactively breaking the law in front of parents. Players don’t want to be on the field, on television, blatantly breaking the law.”

Madison Bumgarner, Bruce Bochy both support ban on chewing tobacco at AT&T Park

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Surprised me a bit that these two would step into this issue, but I thought it was great. The city of San Francisco banned chewing tobacco recently at all sporting venues (It won’t actually take effect until Jan. 1, 2016), including at the Giants’ stadium, AT&T Park. This means that not only fans can’t chew in the park, but players can’t either.

World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner and manager Bruce Bochy expressed their support for the move last week.

From a Los Angeles Times article:

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy applauded the decision: “It’s a step in the right direction,” he told the team’s website. “I think it can be a good thing. It’s going to be hard to enforce. It’s a tough habit to break.”

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner also supported the law. “Hopefully it will be a positive thing for us players. It’s not an easy thing to stop doing, but I support the city.”

There is also a bill winding its way through the California Assembly to ban chewing tobacco at all ballparks in the state, which would include AT&T, Dodger Stadium, Petco in San Diego, the Oakland Coliseum and the L.A. Angels’ stadium.

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AT&T Park (AP photo)

Major League Baseball is under increasing pressure to ban chewing tobacco in all ballparks, especially since the death of Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer (Tony blamed chew for his death and another high-profile player, Curt Schilling, recently underwent treatment for oral cancer which he also blamed on chewing tobacco.). For some mysterious reason, there is a culture of chew deeply embedded in baseball culture. Not only have quite a few ballplayers over the years died of oral or throat cancer (Babe Ruth is the most well-known), but it sets a bad example for teenage baseball players.

However, MLB can’t simply ban chew by players on the field without the approval of the Players’ Association. A chewing tobacco ban is expected to be one of the topics of negotiation between MLB and the Players’ Association in their next contract.

Chew is already banned in all minor league and NCAA baseball parks, so it’s not like there isn’t any precedent.

 

San Francisco votes to ban chew at all ballparks, including AT&T Park

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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted this week to ban chewing tobacco at all ballparks, including the Giants’ home, AT&T Park.

The ordinance, which passed by a unanimous vote, will take a second vote next week, and it sounds like a bit of a formality. The ordinance would not go into effect until Jan. 1, so it would not affect ballplayers and coaches this year.

There is also a similar bill in the California State Assembly to ban chewing tobacco at all ballparks in California — supposedly, this would apply to the Dodgers, A’s and Padres.

The ordinance would ban everyone — even the players — from chewing tobacco publicly in ballparks. I’m wondering how they plan to enforce that if some ballplayers defy the ordinance. I’m kind of trying to imagine them telling some $20 million-a-year athlete to spit out his chew or else he might get a ticket.

Chew is already banned in ballparks at the Minor League level. Smoking is banned in most, if not all, MLB parks (Honestly, that a good question, I don’t know if any parks in the country still allow smoking except in specially designated areas).

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Major League Baseball has expressed an interest in banning chew, but it’s an issue that would have to be negotiated with the Player’s Association. I actually didn’t know this. Players are not allowed to be chewing tobacco during television interviews (I wonder if that’s enforced at all.)

I’m hoping that the action by San Francisco supervisors and the bill in the California Assembly will prompt baseball and the player’s association to take action. It’s long overdue. Too many kids getting the idea that chew is cool from watching their favourite players with a chaw in his cheek.

Tony Gwynn died last year of salivary gland cancer and blamed his decades-long chew habit for his cancer. Curt Schilling last year also had a scary bout of oral cancer and likewise blamed chewing tobacco.

Here is a statement on San Francisco’s move by Matt Myers with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

“Today’s vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is truly historic and a huge step toward eliminating tobacco from baseball for good. San Francisco will become the first city to take tobacco out of baseball, setting a powerful example that all of Major League Baseball and the rest of the country should quickly follow. The Board of Supervisors recognizes some simple but important facts – kids see athletes as role models, and when baseball stars use smokeless tobacco the kids who look up to them are much more likely to as well. Our national pastime should have nothing to do with promoting a deadly and addictive product.

Supervisor Mark Farrell has been a true champion on this issue, putting the health of San Francisco’s kids first. San Francisco is leading the nation on this important issue and helping us achieve our goal of the first tobacco-free generation.

When Mayor Lee signs the ordinance into law, we will be on our way to making Major League Baseball completely tobacco-free by 2016. We applaud San Francisco for acting to break baseball’s unhealthy addiction to tobacco and moving us closer to taking tobacco out of baseball once and for all – for the kids, the players and the future.”

 

Follow-up: San Francisco may ban chewing tobacco at AT&T Park

 

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I wrote about this a day or two ago — a bill has been proposed to ban chewing tobacco both on the field and in the stands of all California ballparks, including Major League ballparks.

Now, while such a bill is likely a longshot to pass, here is an ordinance that might have a better chance. In addition to the statewide bill, there has also been an ordinance proposed to ban chewing tobacco at ballparks within the city and county of San Francisco. Well, there’s one major ballpark in the city — AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants.

 

SFGate interviewed several players about the proposal, who said it would be difficult to enforce.

From the article:

Also in Arizona, Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who quit chewing tobacco with the help of a hypnotherapist, said: “To force a ban, that’s going to be difficult. I’ll say that. (Quitting) is something you have to want to do. I know baseball is doing a great job of trying to keep these guys from doing chewing or dipping. I’m guilty. It’s part of the the game I grew up with.”

The County Supervisor behind the proposal, Mark Farrell, said he has spken with Major League Baseball and the Giants about the idea, and said he’s “not ruling out” exemption for AT&T Park if an agreement cant be reached with the Player’s Association.

Major League Baseball has publicly stated that it is interested in banning chew at ballparks (it is already banned in Minor League parks and by the NCAA), but that it would require an agreement with the Players’ Association. Chew, which for some mystifying reason is deeply ingrained in the game of baseball, is expected to be discussed as part of the next collective bargaining agreement in 2016.