Yesterday, Chicago’s city council passed an ordinance banning all forms of smokeless tobacco from the city’s sports stadiums. That means no dip, no chaw, no snus, all informally part of baseball culture as long as there has been a sport where men sit around for three hours every day. And for the players addicted to the stuff, it’s going to be hard as hell.
“We’re grown men,” John Lackey said. “People in the stands can have a beer, but we can’t do what we want? That’s a little messed up.”
The ordinance kicks in in 90 days, and a first offense carries a fine of $250, the second $500, and any additional violations will cost $2,500. Let’s be realistic: no baseball player is likely to be busted for this. Unless the city is looking to make an example of someone, players can just retreat into the tunnel to spit, and if cameras catch them with a full cheek, who’s to say it’s not sunflower seeds or gum?
But for those targeted by the ordinance, it’s about the principle of the thing.
“I’m not into over-legislating the human race,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “So for me, I’ll just have to listen and learn.
“I stopped chewing tobacco about 15 years ago, and I’m glad that I did because I think I feel better because of it. I know the pitfalls. But I’m into education; education the masses and let everybody make their own decisions. That’s what I’m about. So to tell me what I can and cannot do as an adult –unless it’s illegal; that’s something different.
“When everybody else thinks they know what’s good for me, I don’t appreciate that.”
So, here’s where you get into the age-old debate on weighing personal liberties and public health, with an added dose of “should athletes be role models” thrown in. (And don’t even pretend kids aping ballplayers isn’t a real thing. Even if you never picked up chewing tobacco, there was a reason you liked Big League Chew.)
This is the way the country is going: similar ordinances have passed (though not yet gone into effect) affecting ballparks in California and Boston, and New York City will vote next week. While there’s no secondhand smoke to make it as dangerous or as gross as actual cigarettes, these moves are part of the same policies that banned smoking in bars and restaurants, and have jacked up the cost of cigarettes in the last decade-plus. All with the same end in mind: if you make it difficult or expensive enough to consume tobacco, hopefully less people will use it, bringing health care costs down for everyone.
“It’s going to be hard because you’re an addict, pretty much,” Cubs catcher Miguel Montero said. “It’s going to be tough to quit cold turkey. Hopefully, I can quit that, and hopefully that helps me to quit.
“Obviously, if they’re forcing me, I’ll have to force myself even harder to quit. Now if I know I can’t do it, maybe it’ll help me out.”
It’s good to quit. It’s questionable to not let people make their own decisions on using legal products.