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Baseball and the Slow Death of Chewing Tobacco

Baseball has many things that are an integral part of game. Unfortunately, chewing tobacco has been tied to baseball for as long as the game has been played. Like most things in baseball, change is slow and grueling. Players can still be seen with a dip in their mouth even though 16 of the 30 MLB stadiums have banned the use of smokeless tobacco. It’s still part of the game and the Twins are no stranger to tobacco use.
Image courtesy of © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Slow Change, a Baseball Tradition
College baseball banned smokeless tobacco in 1990 and the minor leagues quickly followed suit in 1993. Over the last 26 years, Major League Baseball has only made gradual changes to their chewing tobacco policies.

As part of the 2012 collective bargaining agreement, the league banned players from carrying tobacco packages or tin in their pockets at any time when the ballpark was open to fans. They also couldn’t use it as part of pregame or postgame interviews.

MLB took it one step further with the 2016 collective bargaining agreement by banning smokeless tobacco for all new major league players. Players already in the big leagues were grandfathered in under this rule so they would still be able to use smokeless tobacco. In 2015, a study found that 37% of MLB players and coaches used smokeless tobacco. This total is almost six times higher than the national average for males (6.4%).

Many cities and states across the country have put in place laws to ban smokeless tobacco in public places. As of June, smokeless tobacco is now banned in over half of major-league stadiums. Minnesota is not one of the 16 stadiums to be included in the ban.
Attached Image: KTOOP_Graphic_16-teams.png
Minnesota’s Clubhouse
Almost all current members of the Minnesota Twins were big leaguers in 2016 so they would be grandfathered in under the current collective bargaining agreement. As recently as 2016, legislation in Minnesota was introduced to ban the use of tobacco at Target Field and CHS Field.

“In general, Major League Baseball and the Twins are supportive of legislative efforts and any efforts to ban smokeless tobacco,” Twins president Dave St. Peter told the Pioneer Press. “It’s long been baseball’s position that it’s something we’d like to get out of our game.”

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been clear on the league’s stance when it comes to chewing tobacco. “For many years we’ve been clear about baseball’s stance on smokeless tobacco,” Manfred said. “It’s banned in the minor leagues. We have proposed on a number of occasions a similar ban at the big-league level. We’ve not been able to negotiate it.”

In 2014, Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn tragically passed away at age 54 from salivary-gland cancer. At the time, some players swore off using chewing tobacco for their own health and families. That still hasn’t stopped current players. Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, two players the Twins are supposed to build around, have both been known smokeless tobacco users. There are no doubt other players on the team that have a similar addiction.

More cities and states will take action in the years ahead. Fewer players will be grandfathered under the current collective bargaining agreement. Chewing tobacco, a baseball staple, is dying a slow death, but thankfully it might not be part of the baseball world future generations will know.

Should baseball do more about chewing tobacco? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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90 Comments

Huh, odd as I thought that smokeless ban was MLB-wide years ago. Kinda forgot about the issue. Does Buxton dip? Looks like it. Who are the Twins players (and for that matter, any list of current MLB players) who use smokeless tobacco?

So 1/3 of major leaguers dip or chew and only 6% of nonplaying males use it. I wonder how many players drink heavily? Just because we can’t see them do it doesn’t make much of a difference. Hardly seems like much to worry about. Unlike smoking, it only affects the user, unless you are squeamish about people spitting. These guys are going to parks like 9 months out of the year. Let them have a little something. Maybe require some preseason education about he dangers of using. Not a big deal IMO, just something for some folks to feel good about.
    • MMMordabito likes this
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Hosken Bombo Disco
Jun 12 2019 08:49 PM
I’m pretty sure I saw Buxton spitting sunflower seeds at one point. Those things can be hard on your mouth too, but not like... cancer. Not sure what he does from game to game. Nicotine is a hard habit to break.

This is not a lighthearted issue - check out https://oralcancerfo...sports-figures/ which includes former twin Bill Tuttle who suffered horribly from the affect of chewing. https://tobaccocontr...content/7/4/443

 

 

 

So 1/3 of major leaguers dip or chew and only 6% of nonplaying males use it. I wonder how many players drink heavily? Just because we can’t see them do it doesn’t make much of a difference. Hardly seems like much to worry about. Unlike smoking, it only affects the user, unless you are squeamish about people spitting. These guys are going to parks like 9 months out of the year. Let them have a little something. Maybe require some preseason education about he dangers of using. Not a big deal IMO, just something for some folks to feel good about.

I'm guessing MLB teams, paying for the player's lifetime health insurance, consider it a big deal?

    • nicksaviking likes this

Meh. They're adults. I think it's a disgusting habit but if they want to do it, who cares? Our culture has become such a bunch of wimps. 

    • MMMordabito likes this

 

I'm guessing MLB teams, paying for the player's lifetime health insurance, consider it a big deal?

Not to mention you're putting arsenic and other literal poisons in your mouth. Performing as a professional athlete means you should care about what you put in your body every day. That's why teams have sports nutritionists and dietitians on staff. 

 

Sano and buxton dip. I know Grossman and Tyler Austin always did. Cruz did when he was with the Rangers but I haven't seen him with anything in his mouth recently.  

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MMMordabito
Jun 13 2019 09:22 AM

To each his own on this one .... MLB should be sure to educate the players, because there can obviously be consequences.We're all going to die.I wouldn't choose salivary gland cancer as my way out, but that's just me.

 

I don't like people telling me what to do, so I wouldn't support legislation.However, if a team or league wants to ban smokeless tobacco, I think it's within reason for them to do that.Nobody is holding a gun to anyone's head saying you have to play for this team or league.

    • LA VIkes Fan likes this

We're all going to die.I wouldn't choose salivary gland cancer as my way out, but that's just me.

That argument is black-and-white - die versus not die. But it's the quality of life that should matter more. Having a heart attack at 48 and living a diminished life until finally succumbing just past a 60th birthday is nobody's idea of a good "way out". You can't guarantee a good or bad outcome, and I know better than to be smug, but man, there are strong correlations.

    • nicksaviking likes this
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nicksaviking
Jun 13 2019 10:24 AM

It is all very weird that this is nearly a baseball exclusive issue. If their non-baseball peers aren't doing it, and it's not allowed in HS, college, minor league and half of the major league stadiums, that means these guys are actively going out of their way to start this habit. It's not like the Senior catcher is sitting next to the Freshman in the dugout pressuring him to try it anymore.

    • ashbury, Danchat and Hosken Bombo Disco like this

It is all very weird that this is nearly a baseball exclusive issue. If their non-baseball peers aren't doing it, and it's not allowed in HS, college, minor league and half of the major league stadiums, that means these guys are actively going out of their way to start this habit. It's not like the Senior catcher is sitting next to the Freshman in the dugout pressuring him to try it anymore.


I didn’t start dipping because I saw a baseball player on tv do it. It was actually a guy at work that got me into it. Obviously I’m aware of the health issues but once a day suits me just fine.

I'm guessing MLB teams, paying for the player's lifetime health insurance, consider it a big deal?


Ok then, ban sodas, hot dogs, hamburgers and all unhealthy food from the parks and clubhouses. Heck, alcohol isn’t even banned in all clubhouses, and even where it is I can guarantee the rule isn’t followed. Also, they should stop taking advertising bucks from any breweries and we all know that won’t happen. Alcohol has ruined countless more lives, is more widely abused and is responsible for many more deaths than dipping. Think of how many ball players dip and you can name one who died from it. There have probably been more DUI deaths from players leaving stadiums at all levels than guys who’s jaws have fallen off. It’s selective, feel good policing. That’s all.
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nicksaviking
Jun 13 2019 11:31 AM

 

I didn’t start dipping because I saw a baseball player on tv do it. It was actually a guy at work that got me into it. Obviously I’m aware of the health issues but once a day suits me just fine.

 

Right, but 37% of your coworkers weren't doing it. Ballplayers are doing it because of watching another ballplayer on TV, because of baseball tradition, or some other outdated idea. I mean 37% compared to 6% isn't a coincidence. Buxton and other players chewing IS perpetuating the use for the next generation. One can argue that it's their right to perpetuate it, but I don't think one can argue that they aren't perpetuating it.

    • spycake likes this

Right, but 37% of your coworkers weren't doing it. Ballplayers are doing it because of watching another ballplayer on TV, because of baseball tradition, or some other outdated idea. I mean 37% compared to 6% isn't a coincidence. Buxton and other players chewing IS perpetuating the use for the next generation. One can argue that it's their right to perpetuate it, but I don't think one can argue that they aren't perpetuating it.


What does throwing a dozen Budweiser ads up per game do for perpetuating bad habits amongst fans? I can’t think of a single televised sporting event I’ve ever seen where alcohol wasn’t a prominent advertiser.
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nicksaviking
Jun 13 2019 11:42 AM

 

What does throwing a dozen Budweiser ads up per game do for perpetuating bad habits amongst fans? I can’t think of a single televised sporting event I’ve ever seen where alcohol wasn’t a prominent advertiser.

 

I'm not sure what my post has to do with your alcohol comparison. Are you trying to say that the current ballplayers who chew aren't perpetuating the habit?

 

But arguments that try to demonize something else as justification don't carry much weight. Feel free to argue for or against an alcohol ban, but saying tobacco should be allowed because alcohol is worse is like arguing that Mussolini should stay in office since Hitler is an even worse dictator.

 

 

Arguments that try to demonize something else as justification don't carry much weight. Feel free to argue for or against an alcohol ban, but saying tobacco should be allowed because alcohol is worse is like arguing that Mussolini should stay in office since Hitler is an even worse dictator.


I think the very nature of baseball lends itself to such a habit. Same reason seeds and bubblegum are popular with players.

Not really with you on the argument not carrying weight. It’s selective enforcement and incredibly hypocritical, especially when alcohol is not only allowed but the league gladly profits from it. How about showing locker room celebrations where dudes are dousing each other in booze? What does that do for the young kids watching? I mean, banning tobacco in entire stadiums is laughable. “Miller park”, “Busch stadium” lol how about “Copenhagen ballpark”? Have you ever looked at the salt content of sunflower seeds? I would want my employees on a low sodium diet if I’m going to be responsible for their health care!

 

Ok then, ban sodas, hot dogs, hamburgers and all unhealthy food from the parks and clubhouses. Heck, alcohol isn’t even banned in all clubhouses, and even where it is I can guarantee the rule isn’t followed. Also, they should stop taking advertising bucks from any breweries and we all know that won’t happen. Alcohol has ruined countless more lives, is more widely abused and is responsible for many more deaths than dipping. Think of how many ball players dip and you can name one who died from it. There have probably been more DUI deaths from players leaving stadiums at all levels than guys who’s jaws have fallen off. It’s selective, feel good policing. That’s all.

 

So a business can't justify taking one step to save themselves money and improve the health of their employees unless they take every possible step to do so. Got it.

    • nicksaviking likes this

So a business can't justify taking one step to save themselves money and improve the health of their employees unless they take every possible step to do so. Got it.


Are you going to act like alcohol is not far and away a bigger threat to the health, safety and well being of not only the user but possibly those around them than some skoal? Is that going to be your argument? But alas $$$$$$$ talks

Never got into dip myself but i smoked for 15 years and quit a couple of years ago in my late 30's.Man i'm glad i stopped.I feel so much better and breath so much better instead of huffing and puffing whenever i do anything outdoors.Lung cancer due to smoking and mouth or lip cancer due to dipping ain't no joke.

    • ashbury likes this
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nicksaviking
Jun 13 2019 12:08 PM

 

I think the very nature of baseball lends itself to such a habit. Same reason seeds and bubblegum are popular with players.

Not really with you on the argument not carrying weight. It’s selective enforcement and incredibly hypocritical, especially when alcohol is not only allowed but the league gladly profits from it. How about showing locker room celebrations where dudes are dousing each other in booze? What does that do for the young kids watching? I mean, banning tobacco in entire stadiums is laughable. “Miller park”, “Busch stadium” lol how about “Copenhagen ballpark”? Have you ever looked at the salt content of sunflower seeds? I would want my employees on a low sodium diet if I’m going to be responsible for their health care!

 

I'm a beer drinker, and I don't think your argument against alcohol advertising is out of line at all. I might not be in favor of it, but there's plenty of merit there.

 

But it doesn't take away from the fact that these guys are perpetuating a habit that no one wants their kids picking up.

I'm a beer drinker, and I don't think your argument against alcohol advertising is out of line at all. I might not be in favor of it, but there's plenty of merit there.
 
But it doesn't take away from the fact that these guys are perpetuating a habit the no one wants their kids picking up.


Believe me, I love my beer drinking as well (I have all the bad habits) so I’m not put off by any of the advertising. I just have a problem with the selectivity of it all. Sure, baseball and tobacco will always be linked and no that’s not a great thing for the kids to see. But I can parent my kids about substance abuse, I don’t need buxton to toss out his wad of dip to make my job any easier.
    • KirbyDome89 likes this

 

Are you going to act like alcohol is not far and away a bigger threat to the health, safety and well being of not only the user but possibly those around them than some skoal? Is that going to be your argument? But alas $$$$$$$ talks

Don't stop there -- cars are dangerous too! Your concern about alcohol is just selective, feel good policing if you're not also banning cars.

Don't stop there -- cars are dangerous too! Your concern about alcohol is just selective, feel good policing if you're not also banning cars.

There are plenty of laws already concerning use of cars. What point exactly where you trying to make here?

It’s always interesting to see how hard some people fight to make sure other people can’t enjoy things that have nothing to do with them.
I think we may be giving kids too much credit paying attention to what's inside a baseball player's mouth. Growing up I never noticed Tony Gwynn and other baseball players were using chew on the field.

If we want to deter kids from using chew play the summer carnival scene from The Sandlot on an endless loop.
    • Aggies7 likes this

 

There are plenty of laws already concerning use of cars. What point exactly where you trying to make here?

There are plenty of laws already concerning use of alcohol. What point exactly where you trying to make by bringing it up repeatedly in this thread?


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