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.
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.
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.”