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.
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.