Bill introduced to ban smokeless tobacco in Yankee Stadium and Citi Field

Associated Press

Baseball’s push to rid the sport of smokeless tobacco has slowly increased in intensity over the years. It has banned minor leaguers from using the stuff and has passed rules — not stringently enforced it appears to the casual observer — prohibiting major leaguers from using it during games or when cameras are present. According to the New York Times they have also instituted a program intended to help big leaguers who want to quit, which is laudable.

But perhaps a bigger incentive to keep big leaguers from using the stuff are state or local ordinances which outlaw smokeless tobacco use in ballparks. We’ve talked about San Francisco and in California as a whole passing laws to this effect. Now, in that Times story, we learn that New York is set to do the same:

Now, a member of the New York City Council, Corey Johnson, is set to introduce a bill Friday that will include language that would ban smokeless tobacco from Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, along with other public arenas in the five boroughs.

“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.

The Yankees and Mets have indicated that they support the bill. As they should given the total lack of any upside whatsoever to their ballplayers using smokeless tobacco. If nothing else, on a practical level, it relieves the league and the union from having to negotiate and enforce rules about this stuff in collective bargaining and, instead, allows them all to simply say “hey, don’t break the law at the ballpark.”

In a larger sense, I appreciate that there are some sticky considerations when it comes to regulating the otherwise legal behavior of consenting adults, but I don’t lose much sleep over tobacco regulation in public places. People talk about slippery slopes and the like, but tobacco is different and far more dangerous than large sodas.

With cigarettes this is obvious given the secondhand smoke concerns. With smokeless tobacco it’s less clear, but it’s no accident that young ballplayers — Babe Ruth league and high school players — use the stuff in greater numbers than their peers. It’s purely emulative behavior. Having a chaw or a dip in has long been part of the “look like a ballplayer” thing, and any effort to eradicate that or, in effect, have major league ballplayers endorsing that is a good move.

Libertarians can register their dissents in the comments.