California politicians want Major League Baseball players to quit chewing tobacco so badly that they made the decision for them.
“A person shall not use or possess a smokeless tobacco product at any time on the playing field of a baseball stadium,” reads legislation signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Monday. Smokeless tobacco includes chew, dip, and snuff. The spittoon in the old governor’s office in the state capitol suggests that Brown’s predecessors in Sacramento indulged—and indoors. But the relationship between politicians and tobacco has, well, evolved.
The law pertains to players and coaches in the minors and majors. The smokeless tobacco prohibition applies to the five MLB parks in California—Petco Park, Dodger Stadium, AT&T Stadium, O.co Coliseum, and Angel Stadium of Anaheim—and dozens of minor-league fields.
Despite focusing exclusively on adult, professional players, California Assemblyman Tony Thurmond calls his bill “all about the kids.” Permitting adults to indulge in their vice before an audience, the Richmond Democrat told the Bay City News, provides “a terrible example for the millions of young people who watch the game.”
The bill he introduced reflects this sentiment that the behavior of ball players influences “impressionable youth.” The legislation calls the use of the legal product by private citizens “a matter of statewide interest and concern.”
“The Legislature further finds that there is a high level of smokeless tobacco use by Major League Baseball players, as well as a well-established role-model effect between professional baseball players and youth,” the bill explains. “A ban on the use of smokeless tobacco in professional baseball takes aim at the use of smokeless tobacco by professional baseball players at stadiums throughout California with the goal that impressionable youth never begin to use smokeless tobacco products or associate smokeless tobacco with the sport of baseball.”
San Diego baseball icon Tony Gwinn died in 2014 from salivary gland cancer after longtime use of smokeless tobacco. The legislation also follows a similar citywide measure passed by the San Francisco board of supervisors, and signed into law by the mayor, earlier this year.