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Bud Selig: smokeless tobacco should be banned in the majors

Apr 1, 2011, 8:22 AM EDT

Dykstra Tobacco

There has been increasing pressure from anti-tobacco groups — and Congress — on Major League Baseball to do something about smokeless tobacco use by major leaguers. To date, baseball has merely acknowledged that it’s and issue, noted that it’s already banned at minor league parks and has made mention of the fact that doing anything with tobacco is a matter of collective bargaining.

That changed yesterday, when Commissioner Selig took a position on the matter:

In a letter to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids on Thursday, Selig told the group’s president he believes “smokeless tobacco should be banned at the Major League level … In the current round of bargaining with the MLBPA, MLB will propose restrictions on the use of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level comparable to the restrictions in place at the Minor League level,” Selig wrote.

This comes two days after top public health officials in 15 Major League Baseball cities sent a letter to Selig and the Major League Baseball Players Association asking them to ban tobacco use by players, managers, coaches and other staff at major league ballparks. And it comes at a time when smokeless tobacco use among high school boys has seen a 36 percent increase in the past eight years. According to the CDC, 15 percent of high school boys currently use smokeless tobacco.

I’m usually the last guy who will respond to “think of the children” appeals and I am a strong advocate of letting grownups do what they damn well please. But I think allowing ballplayers to dip and chew while they’re at the ballpark is something that has to end. It does nothing to enhance the game. Kids see that an take their use as tacit approval. It’s really, really dangerous to ballplayers’ health. Oh, and it’s totally disgusting too.  Viva principle, but in this case, a ballplayer’s personal freedom is outweighed by the factors that demand it be curtailed, at least during working hours.

Hard to say if the union fights this. Their impulse probably would normally be to do so, and I get why that is. But the last time principle trumped sense when it came to negotiations regarding substances used by ballplayers it led to unchecked steroids use which, in my view, was one of the few if only times the MLBPA did a disservice to its membership, both from a PR perspective and from the perspective of the players’ actual best interests.

Use Selig’s call for a smokeless tobacco ban to extract something else you want, Michael Weiner, because I realize that’s how these things work. But ultimately, agree to a ban on smokeless tobacco on ballpark premises. It’s the right thing to do.

  1. Kevin S. - Apr 1, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    I wish they’d ban it just so you’d stop running that damn picture. I gag every time I see it.

    • zff4 - Apr 1, 2011 at 9:30 AM

      1989/1990 thereabouts, can’t remember, Mets v Braves. Nails, with his everpresent enormous mouthful goes bellydown into 3B and the impact causes Lenny to swallow much of it. On his knees and with a hand up to call time, he starts barfing and barfing and….

      3B coach and whoever was playing third are both repelled and shaking with laughter. The Atlanta fans always enjoyed jeering the Mets back then, but this provoked something special from the crowd. Baseball is filled with Magic Moments isn’t it?

      • BC - Apr 1, 2011 at 10:09 AM

        I remember Ron Guidry on Monday Night Baseball in the late 70s or early 80s swallowing his chew and vomiting all over the mound.

      • Utley's Hair - Apr 1, 2011 at 11:49 AM

        Now that’s GOTTA be in violation of some mound vomiting related unwritten rule.

    • Brian Murphy - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:03 PM

      Every time I see that picture, I give serious thought to leaving you, HBT.

      Oh, whom am I kidding? I wish I knew how to quit you.

  2. bobwsc - Apr 1, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    meanwhile, with regard to HGH testing…no pressure Bud.

    • Utley's Hair - Apr 1, 2011 at 11:46 AM

      And replay….

    • Alex K - Apr 1, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      Do you have an reliable HGH test? If so, please share and make your millions!

  3. BC - Apr 1, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    Nice photo.
    Hey, have they banned smoking in the dugout? I assume they have. Leyland goes up to tunnel to blaze away all the time. I remember as a kid Earl Weaver smoking his brains out in the dugout (remember Don “Full Pack” Stanhouse anyone?). Yaz was a big smoker early in his career too.
    No problem with them banning smokeless. I don’t dip, but if I did, I couldn’t do it in my workplace.
    Never got the whole smokeless thing. Tried it in college for maybe 2-3 months, did nothing for me, and I realized at the time that I was spending way too much money on smokeless tobacco that could be better allocated to beer.

  4. ukraineshaqfan - Apr 1, 2011 at 10:02 AM

    Meanwhile, the kids are free to keep sucking down high fructose corn syrup and trans-fats at the park while childhood obesity and diabetes reach epidemic levels, ignoring the fact that heart disease is by far the single biggest killer of Americans.

    • Alex K - Apr 1, 2011 at 11:55 AM

      What does that have to do with smokeless tobacco? Does Bud have to paernt every child at the ballpark now? You don’t want your kid(s) o eat the junk, don’t buy it for them.

      • ukraineshaqfan - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        I’m questioning the crusade against tobacco. Why make a stand against this one specific health issue and not also mandate that players refrain from drinking nutritionally useless gatorade? And if Bud shouldn’t have to “parent every child at the ballpark” why should he ban smokeless tobacco which some adult players happen to enjoy?

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:39 PM

        Well, two considerations are that tobacco is 1) chemically addictive, and 2) illegal for children to use (and illegal to advertise to children). Neither of those conditions apply to fatty foods. For some reason people’s critical thinking evaporates when it comes to so-called infringements on “freedom.”

      • ukraineshaqfan - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:51 PM

        Beer is chemically addictive and illegal to sell to children and yet Bud as no problem with a stadium full of people swilling it in front of children. I ask again, why in a rational society would the focus be solely on tobacco?

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:54 PM

        You’ve lost track of what the argument is about. Can the players drink beer in the dugout? No.

        Do you not see a difference between allowing fans to purchase something, and allowing the players–employees of major league baseball–to consume it while on the job? Does your work let you smoke, chew, and drink in the office?

    • ukraineshaqfan - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:09 PM

      I believe it is you who has lost track or never bothered to critically consider my complaint, which is the inconsistency of MLB’s position on it’s effect on public health and American society as a whole. As well as poison merchants Frito-Lay and Gatorade, MLB official sponsors include Bank of America, Captain Morgan, Dove, Nike. So in shameful addition to supporting obesity and diabetes, MLB is also alligned with fraud, alcholism, animal testing, sweat-shops, and child-labor, but hey kids, don’t smoke!

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:19 PM

        “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

        As I just wrote below (at the same time you were typing your comment, probably), it doesn’t make sense to say that baseball has no authority to ban tobacco unless it refuses any association with anything remotely harmful. Baseball owns the dugouts and employs the players. It can set the rules it wants (in negotiation with the union, of course).

        I mean, you’re not wrong that there’s an inconsistency. Obviously baseball can ban tobacco use since tobacco is a pariah that has (I believe) been banned from advertising at sporting events, so baseball has nothing to lose by banning it, unlike alcohol. Obviously, for baseball, banning tobacco is at least as much about good PR as it is about protecting the health of our precious children. But that doesn’t change the fact that banning tobacco in the dugout is *the right thing to do.* That baseball accepts alcohol and junk food dollars is irrelevant to that point.

      • ukraineshaqfan - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:27 PM

        The inconsistency was my entire point, and I am glad you’ve finally decided to address it.

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:29 PM

        Your entire point was, “Hey, that’s inconsistent!”? Pithy.

      • ukraineshaqfan - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:43 PM

        Wow, you don’t like to lose an argument huh? After changing the subject several times then finally acknowledging that I was correct, you attempt to reduce my well outlined argument to “hey, that’s inconsistent.” All this while calling me challenged in critical thinking, foolish minded, pithy and I think you implied I’m a conservative of all things. Did you take debate? Because you just lost one.

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:53 PM

        You’re the one who called it “your entire point,” not me. I also never implied you were a conservative–that was in response to the “personal freedom/parents’ responsibility/nanny state” angle that others were taking. “Pithy” is a compliment (though a sarcastic one in this case). And I believe it was Emerson who called you small-minded.

        As for not liking to lose an argument…which of us said “you just lost”? I’m genuinely interested in getting to the bottom of this.

        Back to the matter at hand: I do acknowledge the inconsistency, yes. If you examine your own moral/political beliefs and actions, it’s absolutely certain that you’ll find some areas in which you are inconsistent. Does that make you a hypocrite? Does it mean that you should cease all moral action until you can be perfectly consistent? This is what Emerson meant by that quote, I believe: insisting on absolute consistency is pointless, since it doesn’t exist in any person or any institution.

        To put it another way, now that I’ve agreed that there’s inconsistency here, what follows from that? If the point is that we shouldn’t treat MLB as heroes if they ban tobacco, I agree. If the point is that they shouldn’t ban it at all, I’d want to know what principle that’s based on, other than the idea that you can’t do

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:54 PM

        Whoops: “the idea that you can’t do anything unless you’re consistent about it.

      • ukraineshaqfan - Apr 1, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        I called it “my entire argument” to reduce the scope so that your limited reading comprehension would suffice. You seem to be arguing that pointing out a wild, thoroughly illogical inconsistency that speaks to a vast pool of misunderstanding and short-sightedness in American society is pithy and therefore unworthy of discussion. I disagree and will leave it at that.

      • spindervish - Apr 1, 2011 at 3:14 PM

        I’d just like to point out that Gatorade is far from “nutritionally useless” during at least moderately intense physical activity. Certainly people shouldn’t be swilling sugar-water just for fun, but it does actually have useful applications for athletes or people who exercise. Calling it “poison” is more than a little ridiculous. It’s only harmful if used incorrectly.

      • sprizzle2182 - Apr 4, 2011 at 2:21 PM

        Dont bother trying to fight tomemos…they obviously don’t know how to hear anyone’s point of view besides their own…i agree with you that if baseball is all ofthe sudden worried about kids seeing the players dipping, then they should stop selling beer, and stop running beer ads during the game….we need to stop blaming what adults are LEGALLY doing for our kids issues. Your kids are much more likely to do what YOU do, not what a ballplayer does…and honestly, the tv does a pretty good job of cutting away when a player goes to dip….during the Nats/Braves game yesterday, one of the players went to go put dip in and the camera man cut away…no kid is going to realize what was going on, unless they see dipping enough to know, and that’s the parents problem, not the players….PARENTS NEED TO LIGHTEN UP AND WORRY ABOUT WHAT YOUR SHOWING YOUR KIDS, NOT WHAT THE BIG BAD WORLD IS DOING….THERE IS GOING TO ALWAYS BE TEMPTATIONS IN LIFE, THE KIDS WHO HAVE GOOD PARENTS AND ARE RAISED RIGHT WILL BE THE ONES WHO HAVE MORE OF A CHANCE TO NOT GET CAUGHT UP IN IT….

    • lanflfan - Apr 1, 2011 at 2:35 PM

      Baseball can’t control people’s diet. I’m not sure MLB controls what goes into stadium food offerings, I would imagine team ownership and the actual food vendors control that.

      However, MLB can control what their players and coaches do during MLB games. And this is definitely a step in the right direction.

      There is nothing wrong with sports drinks, chips or sweets in moderation (even Cookie Monster now says cookies are a “sometimes” thing). The lesson to learn is moderation, and passing that on our youth. And tobacco is addictive, unless your believe the tobacco lobby and are living in the 1950’s.

  5. Utley's Hair - Apr 1, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    Damn…it’s a good thing I refrained from eating prior to opening up HBT. Is it possible to get brain cancer from looking at that photo?

    • cur68 - Apr 3, 2011 at 9:53 PM

      Still can’t believe you’d want that dip shi_ to get his greasy paws on the world series trophy. And, thanks to my boy Carter, he never did. That picture reminds me what a “shi_ for brains looks like”. We have J5 to thank for enlightening us.

  6. tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    “acknowledged that it’s and issue”? That should never happen.

  7. zdesmond - Apr 1, 2011 at 11:56 AM

    Quit freakin’…call beacon. Chewing is an intergral part of the game and so is freedom, which includes doing what you fucking want. With 2 out of 3 Americans being overweight (which is the real leading cause of death) I’m surprised the government hasn’t banned overweight players. Don’t panic about tobacco, its organic.

    • BC - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:28 PM

      So then why have they banned smoking in (I think) every ballpark? It’s not illegal.

      • cliffleesbeard - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:30 PM

        Cause smoking can effect other people’s health.

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:35 PM

        No, I don’t think that’s the only reason.

      • BC - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:51 PM

        Drinking can affect other people’s health – people driving drunk, starting fights, etc. – and that’s not banned.

    • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      Freedom is an integral part of the game? Can players wear whatever they want during games? Can they say what they want to the umpires? Can the pitchers wear accessories that might distract the hitters? Can they touch the bases in the order they want?

      • BC - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:06 PM

        Well, yeah, they can. They’d just get thrown out of the game.

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:07 PM

        And fined/suspended, if their behavior was egregious or if they persisted in it. They’d be prevented from working until their transgression ceased.

  8. cliffleesbeard - Apr 1, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    As a person who uses smokeless tobacco, this stuff should be banned. It is highly addictive and I made a huge mistake getting hooked to it. I tried quitting several times, but it’s tough.

  9. schrutebeetfarms - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    I wonder what is actually more influential to children. The relatively few players who use tobacco, or the non-stop advertising that suggests people need alcohol to have a good time during baseball games on tv and the non-stop selling of alcohol of people in the stands who are lit up by the time they get to the game.

    I agree baseball players shouldn’t use tobacco and one of the reasons could be because it can influence children. But this shouldn’t be legislated. Not while baseball continues to take advertising money from (insert beer name here.) If Bud wants to be up on his high horse, that’s fine, but the drunk who is swearing because he’s been served way too many beers at the stadium and now the kids (whose parents can actually afford tickets) have to listen to him for the final 6 innings of the game seems like a bigger issue than someone who has a dip in.

    • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      I don’t disagree with you about alcohol advertising, but I don’t understand the position that baseball can’t ban one unhealthy message unless it bans all of them. By that logic smoking should be allowed too.

      On sports radio in LA a couple days ago, the hosts kept saying that in light of the revelations about OSU and Auburn, the NCAA should immediately lessen USC’s probation. Well, why does that make sense? You don’t show that you’re serious about something by refusing to take any action on it until you can be perfectly consistent; that basically means taking no action at all. Doing something is still doing better than doing nothing.

      • ukraineshaqfan - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:31 PM

        By all means, baseball should use it’s influence on society to set a good example. But nobody likes a hypocrite.

  10. mornelithe - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:14 PM

    So…why exactly aren’t parents being held responsible for the actions of their children or god forbid, the children themselves?? These kids are in high school….last time I checked you had to be 18 to purchase tobacco products. This is nothing more than yet another attempt to make society responsible for properly raising other peoples kids, and it’s got to stop.

    Everyone’s so quick to rush and blame everyone else but parenting, and kids themselves.

    • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:24 PM

      Oh for heaven’s sake, people just lose their minds over this. “Make society responsible”? What does that even mean in this case? Is Major League Baseball “society”?

      How about this: Baseball doesn’t control the kids or the parents, but it does control the dugouts and the players (limited by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, of course), end of story.

      How about this, too: you mentioned schools, but schools don’t allow students to smoke or chew on campus. They don’t even allow teachers to smoke or chew on campus! Are schools “making society responsible for raising other people’s kids”?

      Why are all of these pro-freedom people against a business’s freedom to set rules for its employees? I feel like conservatives and liberals do a big switcheroo on this one.

      • mornelithe - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:36 PM

        Major League Baseball is part of society, I’m surprised I had to actually say that. Usually people with the ability to write are fairly quick on the uptake. I guess exceptions can be made however.

        “How about this: Baseball doesn’t control the kids or the parents, but it does control the dugouts and the players (limited by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, of course), end of story.”

        Fail to see why I should care? Because I don’t. If baseball players want to chew or smoke, go for it. I could care less. My parents actually taught me about the ills of smoking or chewing. Go figure.

        “How about this, too: you mentioned schools, but schools don’t allow students to smoke or chew on campus. They don’t even allow teachers to smoke or chew on campus! Are schools “making society responsible for raising other people’s kids”?”

        Well duh, that’s been obvious for a few decades now. With the emergence of two working parents, schools and the rest of society have been forced to shelter children from pretty much everything ‘parents’ are too busy to deal with. you know, teaching kids values, and things of that nature. Because hey, they just couldn’t be bothered, right?

        “Why are all of these pro-freedom people against a business’s freedom to set rules for its employees? I feel like conservatives and liberals do a big switcheroo on this one.”

        Because they’re not doing it for their employees, or for the health of their workers. They’re doing it because a bunch of pissants who couldn’t be bothered to care for their own children, whined and complained.

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:42 PM

        “Fail to see why I should care? Because I don’t.”

        You don’t have to care–you don’t set baseball’s rules. Baseball does! So why should you care if they decide to ban smokeless tobacco?

        I’ll ask you what I asked Ukraine up there: does your workplace allow you to smoke and chew in the office?

      • mornelithe - Apr 1, 2011 at 1:50 PM

        “You don’t have to care–you don’t set baseball’s rules. Baseball does! So why should you care if they decide to ban smokeless tobacco?”

        Because they’re not doing it for their employees, they’re doing it for whiners. Big difference. One would be the responsible thing, the other is aquiescing to people who refuse to take responsibility for their own children.

        “I’ll ask you what I asked Ukraine up there: does your workplace allow you to smoke and chew in the office?”

        Smoke, no, obviously no, and that’s an issue with second-hand smoke. An enclosed environment like my workplace (no windows open, completely sealed building, lots of private data), that would be idiotic. Hell, I’ve grilled on the loading dock before, left the loading bay door open and the entire building reeked of grill smoke. Just doesn’t work.

        Chewing though? Nobody ever made mention of it. The difference here however, again, as I stated above, the company made that decision due to the health of it’s own employees, not because people were whining about the impression it had on their kids. Big difference.

      • tomemos - Apr 1, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        It’s weird to me that you seem to think that the same parents who are demanding that baseball ban smoking are the same parents that aren’t teaching their kids anything. I mean, there must be a little overlap, but in my experience the hands-off parents and the publicly outraged parents are two different groups. But that’s a side issue.

        Again, I don’t see why the purity of baseball’s motives is so important here. Sure, they’re partly (maybe largely) doing this because it’s good PR. But in this case, it’s also genuinely good for the employees, and for kids. Companies do the right thing because they get good press out of it–that’s the way it’s supposed to work, surely?

        Plus, have I missed the massive outcry that is forcing baseball to knuckle under? That’s a genuine question. The only pressure I’m aware of has come from Tony Gwynn, who has a personal stake in this as he got cancer from, he believes, chewing tobacco. So I doubt if he’s the “pissant” you have in mind; who is? If the question of public pressure makes such a big difference, then I’d like to know what that pressure has been, because I’m not aware of it at all.

  11. bigbbfan - Apr 2, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Craig, you are most consistent. As a former attorney you show absolutely no passion for individual rights. It is good that you no longer pretend to be an attorney.

    I personally despise the use of tobacco in any form, but come on, they have banned smoking in the dugout which can certainly harm those around the smoker. Other than being gross in appearence I do not believe chewing does any harm to those around the chewer.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 2, 2011 at 10:42 AM

      Does your employer allow you to chew tobacco where you work? If not, why not? Is that an infringement of your individual rights?

  12. volcom2143 - Apr 4, 2011 at 10:22 AM

    Craig is a Philly hater . Why you have to pick Lenny the dude for the picture of this article? Plenty of current players use smokeless tobacco . Lenny has been out the game since like 95 . Stop drinking the haterade bro

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