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  • In Time For Opening Day, Cities Ban Chewing Tobacco At Ballparks

    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.

    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.”

    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.

    Article courtesy of Eric Boehm of Watchdog.org


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