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Nanny State of the Week: In time for Opening Day, cities ban chewing tobacco at ballparks

By   /   April 4, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 76 of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week

As the new baseball season opens this week, one long-time tradition of the game will be missing from some ballparks.

In Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and elsewhere, ballplayers will no longer be allowed to take the field with wads of chewing tobacco pressed inside their cheeks.

Shutterstock image

BIG LEAGUE CHEW BAN: Ballparks in New York, like Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, players will no longer be allowed to chew tobacco. Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco have passed similar bans

America’s three biggest cities have recently passed bans on chewing tobacco in ballparks — the substance remains completely legal everywhere else — and those bans will extend to not only the fans at Major League Baseball games, but the players on the field as well.

“It’s very important for the health of our players, and for the city as a whole,” New York mayor (and Nanny State regular) Bill de Blasio told ESPN last month when he signed the ban. “Young people look up to baseball players, and they look up to all athletes, and we want to protect everyone’s health.”

Yes, chewing tobacco is an unhealthy, repugnant habit that young people (and everyone else) should avoid for obvious reasons: like tooth decay, mouth cancer and the general disgustingness that comes from having brown juice leaking constantly out of your mouth.

But people are free to make their own choices about what they do to their own bodies, and that freedom extends to professional ballplayers just the same as it does to anyone else, particularly since chewing tobacco is not illegal anywhere except in baseball stadiums.

De Blasio said he hopes New York City’s ban on chewing tobacco will be an opportunity for education (Nanny State policies are often justified on the grounds of “education” by force, after all) and that ballplayers will stop dipping voluntarily.

If not, though, he’s fully prepared to issue fines “if the players don’t relent.”  For now, the law does not say anything about what those fines would be.

Chew has a long history in baseball. Even though it has largely fallen out of favor with Americans in recent decades, more than one-quarter of professional baseball players still use it on a regular basis.

Chicago’s ban on chewing tobacco at Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field has drawn complaints from players and managers alike.

“We’re grown men,” Chicago Cubs pitcher John Lackey told ESPN. “People in the stands can have a beer, but we can’t do what we want? That’s a little messed up.”

Image from Wiki Commons

JOE KNOWS: Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon says he doesn’t like chewing tobacco but also doesn’t see why government has to be involved in ballplayers’ personal decisions.

A first offense in Chicago will cost $250, while a second offense will mean a fine of $500. The third offense, and any subsequent offenses, carry a punishment of $2,500. By the end of the first weekend series of the year, a chewer like Lackey could be signing off a decent portion of his paycheck to the city of Chicago.

As with many Nanny State policies, though, this “messed up” idea is gaining a lot of traction in the usual places. Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco have joined New York and Chicago in instituting no-chewing-tobacco-at-baseball-games bans and California has passed a similar ban scheduled to take effect in 2017, covering the ballparks in Anaheim, Oakland and San Diego.

In Los Angeles, the penalty for getting caught with a wad of tobacco in your lip while playing professional baseball is the same as getting caught defecating in public. Are those two “crimes” of equal stature?

Again, the justification is all about protecting the children — even if it means trampling the rights of others to engage in legal behavior.

“The City Council says it wants ‘to set the right example for America’s youth.’ I guess the lesson is: Don’t get too famous, or else your otherwise legal personal habits will become subject to the whims of attention-seeking politicians,” wrote Reason editor Matt Welch in an op-ed for the L.A. Times (the paper, unsurprisingly, applauded the city’s decision to impose the ban).

Where does all of this lead? To Congress, of course, which is always eager to stick its nose into the business of baseball. U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-New Jersey, is calling on MLB to ban chewing tobacco on baseball fields and in dugouts. It’s likely just a matter of time before he, or one of his colleagues, introduces legislation to do the same.

We’ll give the final word on this issue to one of the smartest men in the game: Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who quit the dip 15 years ago because it was unhealthy.  He says that he’s “not into over-legislating the human race.”

“I’m into personal freedoms,” Maddon told ESPN. “I don’t understand the point with all that. Just eradicate tobacco period if you’re going to go that route.”

Shhh, John, don’t give them any ideas.

Part of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week
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  2. Nanny-state city of the week: Minneapolis wants to ban take-out trays
  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
  4. Nanny state of the week: Fairfax, VA, wants to limit the right to assemble
  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
  6. Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers
  7. Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free
  8. Nanny of the week: Federal authorities think feral cats can read signs
  9. Nanny of the week: Cambridge wants to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft
  10. Nanny-stater of the week: NY lawmaker wants to ban photos with tigers
  11. Nanny-stater of the Week: Who needs cupcakes and candy? Here, have a pencil
  12. Nanny-stater of the week: Fargo limits kids to less than four shots of juice per day
  13. Nanny-stater of the week: Wisconsin towns fight repeal of bow ban
  14. Nanny of the week: No fun in the sun, thanks to Congress and FDA
  15. Nanny-stater of the week: DOT to ban cell phone use on planes
  16. Nanny of the week: The out-of-control trend of arresting non-helicopter moms
  17. Nanny of the Week: Vermont city could ban ‘human activity’
  18. Nanny of the Week: Mississippi makes bird feeders illegal – by accident
  19. Nanny of the week: MO town bans breastfeeding near pools
  20. Nanny of the Week: School bans lip balm, 11 year-old girl fights back
  21. Watchdog.org blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban
  22. Nanny of the Week: Seattle imposes fine on residents who throw away food
  23. Nanny of the Week: California bans plastic bags
  24. Nanny of the week: Maybe this time it will be different for Chicago
  25. Nanny of the Week: Florida growls at craft breweries’ growlers
  26. Nanny of the Week: Massachusetts town seeking to ban tobacco faces uprising from residents
  27. Nanny of the Week: Proposed bans on Thanksgiving Day shopping
  28. Nanny of the week: U.S. government bans ‘Comfyballs’ underwear
  29. Nanny of the Week: Better take down those holiday decorations
  30. Nanny of the week: Towns ban sledding
  31. Nanny of the Week: New York City plans to ban out-of-state cars
  32. Nanny of the Week: Snow-shoveling teens get in trouble with the law
  33. Nanny of the Week: Get caught wearing yoga pants three times, go to jail for life
  34. Nanny of the Week: Georgia lawmaker wants to ban mermaids, werewolves, other fictional creatures from real life
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  38. Nanny of the Week: Is the minimum wage a nanny state policy?
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  40. Nanny of the Week: NJ continues ban on self-serve gasoline, because sometimes it snows
  41. Nanny of the Week: Bernie Sanders is coming for your deodorant
  42. Nanny of the Week: Will babies confuse beer for their binkies?
  43. Nanny of the Week: Weeds will prevail in Maryland lawn care ban
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  45. Nanny State of the Week: L.A. plans to jail unlicensed street vendors
  46. Nanny ST8 of the Week: Anti-government messages not allowed on license plates
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  50. Nanny State of the Week: Florida county sends environmental specialist to investigate BBQ
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  55. Nanny State of the Week: D.C. flexing licensing muscles at personal trainers
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  57. Nanny State of the Week: County can use same lawn treatments it banned residents from using
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  62. Nanny State of the Week: New York might accidentally ban makeup
  63. Nanny State of the Week: California could be first state to apply no-fly list to guns
  64. Nanny State of the Week: University may block social media app in futile effort to combat racism
  65. Nanny State of the Week: City fines residents for chipped paint, mismatched curtains
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  69. Nanny State of the Week: Minnesota men facing felony charges for selling beer
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  71. Nanny State of the Week: FDA goes beyond the pale, prepares to ban teen tanning
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  73. Nanny State of the Week: Feds marketing food stamps with bingo games, TV ads
  74. Nanny State of the Week: No sipping and selling for Alabama winemakers
  75. Nanny State of the Week: Jail time for texting while walking in New Jersey
  76. Nanny State of the Week: In time for Opening Day, cities ban chewing tobacco at ballparks
  77. Nanny State of the Week: Feds send LSD Ale on a long, strange trip
  78. Nanny State of the Week: Happy Tax Day! Now get ready to pay more to file
  79. Nanny State of the Week: A state license for breast-feeding advice?
  80. Nanny State of the Week: School officials bully kids with ban on skinny jeans
  81. Nanny State of the Week: FDA fries family’s potato chip business with new cooking oil mandates
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  83. Nanny State of the Week: City cracks down on crawfish boils after mayor’s aide complains
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  85. Nanny State of the Week: State lawmakers to decide where you can get an Uber in Boston
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