We first talked about this in February when proposed City of San Francisco and State of California laws were drafted that would outlaw the use of smokeless tobacco in public parks where baseball is played, including professional facilities like AT&T Park. The Los Angeles Times reports that the San Francisco law, which would be able to be enforced against major league ballplayers, is getting close to passing:
The ban still needs to pass a second Board of Supervisors vote and be signed by Mayor Ed Lee before AT&T Park becomes the first major league stadium to ban the use of smokeless tobacco. “San Francisco will send a simple and strong message,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who introduced the ordinance. “Tobacco use in sports will no longer harm our youth, our health.”
The article doesn’t handicap the bill’s chances of passing or give the timetable for the vote or, if it is passed, its implementation.
As I said back in February — and as is noted in the LAT article — Major League Baseball would welcome laws like this. That’s not terribly surprising given that such a law would relieve the league of having to engage with the union over smokeless tobacco rules. Rather, it can just say “hey, it’s the law.” The union, which gave ground on conspicuous smokeless tobacco use by players in the past, is not as big a fan given that it regulates otherwise legal behavior of consenting adults and, of course, impacts union members.
As I argued in the past, it’s often hard to justify any law that restricts adults’ use of legal products, even if there are health arguments in favor of doing it (New York’s large soda ban being an example). But tobacco is different and far more dangerous than sugar and past time-and-place restrictions on cigarette smoking has proven to reduce the number of smokers overall. Indeed, it’s no accident that fewer people smoke now that you can’t do it in bars and restaurants in most cities and states. If you make it so that ballplayers can’t chew tobacco at the park, you’re likely to see fewer ballplayers using the stuff overall. And that would be a very good thing.
If you doubt this, ask Curt Schilling about it. Or ask Tony Gwynn’s family.