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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

 

That was obviously hyperbole, but you knew that.

And what was the point of your hyperbole? To be dismissive of legitimate justifications for the tobacco ban (responding to my post about health insurance costs).

 

 

The same arguments you make for banning tobacco can be made for banning booze. Immediate impact, long term health concerns, fan interaction. Or is that not correct?

Not quite. The primary argument I made about banning tobacco -- which you dismissed with your hyperbole -- was health insurance costs, which are affected more by tobacco than alcohol.

 

That said, this website from 2012 says that 18 MLB clubs had clubhouse alcohol restrictions -- I imagine that number has only gone up:

https://www.shazamla...lubhouses.shtml

 

Here's another article from 2013 that says "You can drink on team flights traveling on the road, but on flights home, not one team authorizes drinking."

https://www.shazamla...lubhouses.shtml

 

It sure seems like MLB is taking reasonable steps to deal with alcohol use among its players too.

    • nicksaviking likes this

And I've said you have valid points with alcohol even if I don't agree with them all, again, what is your justification for keeping tobacco other than "If I can't have mine you can't have yours"?


Fairness, uniformity, anti hypocrisy. Not that any of us are pro ball players, but I can sympathize. My workplace (a college) recently banned all forms of tobacco and while I disagree, I understand why. Same reason I understand why the powers that be banned the keg parties the old timers tell me they used to have many years ago for employees every other Friday after work. While it would be awesome to still have those, the horrible things that can happen when a few dozen people drive home after hours of drinking were understandably enough to cancel that. And I’m as pro beer as it comes, I’m a home brewer!


Not quite. The primary argument I made about banning tobacco -- which you dismissed with your hyperbole -- was health insurance costs, which are affected more by tobacco than alcohol.

.

Can you prove this statement that chewing tobacco, not smoking, affects insurance costs more than alcohol?

Yes, many clubs do have restrictions, many but not all.

 

I agree with Nick that holding up one side as "worse," to exonerate the other is a weak argument, but Aggies is right about the hypocrisy. Heart disease affects exponentially more people than cancer due to smokeless tobacco, yet ballparks are more than willing to push out 3000 calorie platters of artery clogging garbage to their fanbase. That absolutely has a direct financial impact. 

 

IMO banning chewing tobacco is purely PR. They can spin it as a concern for health, but that comes off as entirely hypocritical when you consider what they're selling to the fanbase that kicks in tax money to pay for the stadium, generates concession/ticket revenue, and purchases tv viewing packages. 

MLB teams save money by discouraging tobacco use. MLB teams make money through concession sales. All of that seems perfectly consistent.

 

Are some of their reasons/justifications less meaningful than others? Certainly, but that doesn't mean the other reasons don't exist.

 

FWIW, those "3000 calorie platters of artery clogging garbage" at the ballpark are generally priced so as to discourage their mass consumption. :)

 

Can you prove this statement that chewing tobacco, not smoking, affects insurance costs more than alcohol?

It's a lot harder for insurers to get meaningful data about an individual's alcohol usage vs tobacco usage.

 

And as for chew vs smoke, it has been my experience that insurance companies don't differentiate between the two. A quick Google search seems to back that up: "While tobacco chewers might not be at the same level of risk as smokers for respiratory or other debilitating health conditions, insurance companies place all tobacco users -- including those who chew -- in the same smoker risk category and hit them with higher premiums"

https://budgeting.th...acco-31513.html

 

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nicksaviking
Jun 13 2019 01:56 PM

 

I agree with Nick that holding up one side as "worse," to exonerate the other is a weak argument, but Aggies is right about the hypocrisy. Heart disease affects exponentially more people than cancer due to smokeless tobacco, yet ballparks are more than willing to push out 3000 calorie platters of artery clogging garbage to their fanbase. That absolutely has a direct financial impact. 

 

IMO banning chewing tobacco is purely PR. They can spin it as a concern for health, but that comes off as entirely hypocritical when you consider what they're selling to the fanbase that kicks in tax money to pay for the stadium, generates concession/ticket revenue, and purchases tv viewing packages. 

 

As someone who might be tempted by that 3000 calorie platter, they can go right ahead and get rid of that as well. If getting rid of chew 10 years ago would have stopped a young Byron Buxton from starting, then it wouldn't have just been PR, and if getting rid of it now stops Byron Buxton from influencing next generation, that's not PR either.

    • spycake likes this
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KirbyDome89
Jun 13 2019 02:13 PM

 

As someone who might be tempted by that 3000 calorie platter, they can go right ahead and get rid of that as well. If getting rid of chew 10 years ago would have stopped a young Byron Buxton from starting, then it wouldn't have just been PR, and if getting rid of it now stops Byron Buxton from influencing next generation, that's not PR either.

Honestly I'd rather they not get rid of any of it, and adults were allowed to make their own decisions. Buxton is a grown man, I think it's safe to assume he knows the risks associated with chewing at this point. He's no longer an impressionable youngster. 

 

I agree that there always has to be a first domino to fall, but like I said before, if MLB is actually serious about the health of those involved there are larger dominoes to topple that would be just as easy as banning chew. That leads me to believe this is more about PR, i.e. "think of the children," rather than actual concern. 

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KirbyDome89
Jun 13 2019 02:15 PM

 

MLB teams save money by discouraging tobacco use. MLB teams make money through concession sales. All of that seems perfectly consistent.

 

Are some of their reasons/justifications less meaningful than others? Certainly, but that doesn't mean the other reasons don't exist.

 

FWIW, those "3000 calorie platters of artery clogging garbage" at the ballpark are generally priced so as to discourage their mass consumption. :)

Short term yes, but they also stand to make a lot more long term by holding onto customers. That's the inconsistency. 

 

I think that player health could certainly be a factor, I just don't buy the idea it's near the top of the list for banning chew. 

 

Ha, in one sitting, sure. It doesn't take too many of them over time to start doing some damage though. 

 

Short term yes, but they also stand to make a lot more long term by holding onto customers. That's the inconsistency. 

You think they're losing a lot of customers through the tobacco ban? I'm guessing they make money from the stadium ban -- tobacco users rate of attendance probably doesn't fall off much (if at all), and they're probably more likely to purchase concessions if they can't use tobacco. 

 

 

I think that player health could certainly be a factor, I just don't buy the idea it's near the top of the list for banning chew. 

You think MLB isn't motivated by money too? The insurance costs could be considerable. Remember, they're paying for lifetime insurance for every guy who's ever suited up in an MLB uniform. When that populations chews at 5x the rate of the normal population, the extra premium costs are going to add up.

 

Obviously we don't know how they rank the reasons, but if they save money AND get good PR, I wouldn't say they're doing it just to feel good about themselves.

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nicksaviking
Jun 13 2019 02:31 PM

 

Honestly I'd rather they not get rid of any of it, and adults were allowed to make their own decisions. Buxton is a grown man, I think it's safe to assume he knows the risks associated with chewing at this point. He's no longer an impressionable youngster. 

 

I agree that there always has to be a first domino to fall, but like I said before, if MLB is actually serious about the health of those involved there are larger dominoes to topple that would be just as easy as banning chew. That leads me to believe this is more about PR, i.e. "think of the children," rather than actual concern. 

 

How many adults just happen to pick up chew? I don't care what Buxton does, especially when he's at home. It's the 16-year-olds watching him that are making that decision and 16-year-olds make 5 poor decision for every 1 good decision.

 

He doesn't have to be a role model, but if he doesn't want to do the right thing by not perpetuating the idea that ballplayers have to chew, then I have no problem if someone else tells him he can't do it at the ballpark anymore.

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Nine of twelve
Jun 13 2019 06:38 PM

 

Alcohol is dangerous when used illegally.

 

I'm fine if tobacco can stays, as long as the nicotine is just removed. We have a long history of banning harmful ingestible chemicals, I'm not sure why this is treated differently. If nicotine were removed, tobacco would be on more square footing with alcohol, as booze is something that only a small percentage of people are addicted to while nearly everyone who uses tobacco is addicted.

Removing nicotine may make it less likely players will use tobacco, but nicotine is not what causes cancer. It's all the other toxic stuff in tobacco that does that.

I really could care less about individuals' personal choices. I just really don't want to be sitting next to someone who is spitting brown goo into a cup throughout the game. Ban it from the stadiums.

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biggentleben
Jun 13 2019 08:48 PM

 

That was obviously hyperbole, but you knew that.

The same arguments you make for banning tobacco can be made for banning booze. Immediate impact, long term health concerns, fan interaction. Or is that not correct?

 

Smokeless tobacco TO THIS DAY has been laced with incredibly harmful chemicals and even poisons. While each state has their own laws for local brewers, the testing required to sell nationally, both initially and ongoing, with alcohol ensures you are getting a reputable product that is what the label says that it is. You are literally gambling with your life every time you put a single dip in, let alone make it a habit. To give an idea, I had a college friend who went to work with Pinkerton Tobacco Company (who make Red Man), and he left there to create his own supplement company. Most know how minimally-regulated the supplement industry is, but he's stated before that it'd be easier for him to get a new flavor of Red Man on the market than to put a new type of protein supplement on the market. The tobacco lobby put in some incredibly loose regulations on their products for years, and while the products may be finding fewer and fewer spots that they can be used publicly, the regulations on what those products can contain have never been approached in all of the movement to limit/ban tobacco products.

Smokeless tobacco TO THIS DAY has been laced with incredibly harmful chemicals and even poisons. While each state has their own laws for local brewers, the testing required to sell nationally, both initially and ongoing, with alcohol ensures you are getting a reputable product that is what the label says that it is. You are literally gambling with your life every time you put a single dip in, let alone make it a habit. To give an idea, I had a college friend who went to work with Pinkerton Tobacco Company (who make Red Man), and he left there to create his own supplement company. Most know how minimally-regulated the supplement industry is, but he's stated before that it'd be easier for him to get a new flavor of Red Man on the market than to put a new type of protein supplement on the market. The tobacco lobby put in some incredibly loose regulations on their products for years, and while the products may be finding fewer and fewer spots that they can be used publicly, the regulations on what those products can contain have never been approached in all of the movement to limit/ban tobacco products.


Hey, I’m not saying it’s healthy, good for you or safe in any way, shape or form. Nor am I saying that mlb doesn’t have every right in the world to ban it. But it affects the individual user only. I’ve never heard of a player having one too many dips and running over someone as he’s leaving the park, or a player who put too much chew in and went home and beat his wife. Let alone the behavior of fans who’ve had too much to drink. Those things, and many other bad things, happen when players are allowed to drink in the clubhouse. I worked in baseball, I saw it, and while some teams have implemented their own ban, the league has yet to do so because there’s more money involved in beer than there is in tobacco. It’s simple hypocrisy, that’s all.
    • Ben Noble likes this

I really could care less about individuals' personal choices. I just really don't want to be sitting next to someone who is spitting brown goo into a cup throughout the game. Ban it from the stadiums.


From a fan’s perspective, do you want to go to a game with your kids or with whoever and sit next to a guy who’s taking full advantage of the 2 cup per visit rule? Somebody who’s been tailgating since 3 hours before first pitch and downing as much as he can before they shut off sales? We’ve all been stuck sitting next to an obnoxious drunk oaf who thinks he’s hilarious hurling insults at the opposing team. And then when you finally leave the park, you just hope he’s not near you when he hops in his car to go home. Sounds a lot worse than Byron throwing a dip in before he heads out to center

From a fan’s perspective, do you want to go to a game with your kids or with whoever and sit next to a guy who’s taking full advantage of the 2 cup per visit rule? Somebody who’s been tailgating since 3 hours before first pitch and downing as much as he can before they shut off sales? We’ve all been stuck sitting next to an obnoxious drunk oaf who thinks he’s hilarious hurling insults at the opposing team. And then when you finally leave the park, you just hope he’s not near you when he hops in his car to go home. Sounds a lot worse than Byron throwing a dip in before he heads out to center


I’ve experienced both. And I would rather sit next to the drunk. Because after a while, the drunk is likely to cross a line that gets him removed due to stadium rules. And I don’t drive to the games. So I say no to the goo.

 

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.

 

Also want to add that I don't have a problem with sports franchises taking a harder stance against smoking and dipping, meanwhile encouraging users to quit. It's not a matter of "IF" it's "WHEN" you eventually get cancer and then a roll of the dice whether or not you die. I've had multiple relatives pass away from lung cancer and I admit I was stubborn and dumb to do it myself. Encouraging our youth NOT to smoke and dip should be a high priority among-st us all, especially considering how difficult it is to quit. I did it cold turkey but a lot of people can't do that and Chantix has bad side effects for many.   

This is a tough one, and an interesting discussion. 

 

I chewed for about 10 years, when I was playing college ball and coaching. I never once was influenced by MLB players who chewed. I did it because my arm was sore and it helped me loosen up. 

 

If MLB bans smokeless tobacco, it probably wouldn't stop that many people from doing it on their own time. If it does help to make a % of people stop using it, they will probably find a different vice. 

 

I'm not saying I would be against a ban. I am saying MLB could have more influence by heavily advertising against smokeless tobacco and its harmful effects within the stadiums. 

I really had fun with the "No Smoking Allowed at the Metrodome" PAs before the first pitch in the Twins' games. Unfortunately nobody mentioned the small print "except at the home and visitor clubhouses"..

 

There are 2 ways that players will stop chewing tobacco:

 

1. If the MLB and the player association both agree to put it down in the terms of the employment (which will never happen, as it never happened with smoking)

 

2. if States and/or municipalities (depending on who control local laws on tobacco use) put it down as a local law.

 

Door number 2 is why players cannot smoke in the clubhouses any more.

So if the Twins, and the rest of the MLB want to have a non-chewing culture, they should just lobby their local/state governments. In about half of the parks chewers cannot chew (that's why you see Buxton eg. do sunflower seeds in some away games...)

 

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.

 

You seriously didn't notice? I'm betting you did notice but just don't remember. Dipping was a huge part of baseball culture which is why this topic was started. If you seriously don't remember, send a question to Bert or Dan and I'm sure they'll gladly talk about it on the air for you.

 

I can only imagine how disgusting dugouts were until recently. Being the janitor who had to mop all of the dip spit off the floor and empty the spit buckets after each game would have been a terrible job.

 

True, players can do whatever they want to do at home. When Manfred talks about banning it, he's not talking about what players do on their free time. Can you think of many workplaces in 2019 that are supportive of dipping while at work? Yes, when I lived in Austin there was always a country boy who would keep his little styrofoam cup with him all the time to spit in at work. This was certainly the minority, though.

 

They're on the job. Their employer has the right to decide what they can and can't do on the field and at the stadium.

 

According to the collective bargaining agreement, that's not actually true. Otherwise owners would've banned it a long time ago. Either way, we need to stop being such children. It's not our job to protect other people from themselves. 

 

According to the collective bargaining agreement, that's not actually true. Otherwise owners would've banned it a long time ago. Either way, we need to stop being such children. It's not our job to protect other people from themselves. 

CBA is a good point.

 

 

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KirbyDome89
Jun 14 2019 01:57 PM

 

You think they're losing a lot of customers through the tobacco ban? I'm guessing they make money from the stadium ban -- tobacco users rate of attendance probably doesn't fall off much (if at all), and they're probably more likely to purchase concessions if they can't use tobacco. 

 

 

You think MLB isn't motivated by money too? The insurance costs could be considerable. Remember, they're paying for lifetime insurance for every guy who's ever suited up in an MLB uniform. When that populations chews at 5x the rate of the normal population, the extra premium costs are going to add up.

 

Obviously we don't know how they rank the reasons, but if they save money AND get good PR, I wouldn't say they're doing it just to feel good about themselves.

No no no...My point was slightly tongue in cheek but I meant teams stand to earn more from healthy repeat customers over time rather than those suffering from heart disease. Individuals with chronic health aliments aren't frequenting events at the same rate as those without them, and they certainly aren't matching lifespans either. We're speaking in extreme generalities here but a long term outlook is rosier if teams aren't feeding (literally) into the #1 affliction the US suffers from. 

 

I think I've made the exact opposite contention. We're talking about guys who beat the hell out of their bodies over a short period of time. Even if it's 5X the normal usage rate, that still a small percentage of total players. We're speculating but I'd wager that MLB spends much more on chronic physical aliments than they do on cancer linked directly to chewing. Sure, they might save a little $, but as I said before there are more impactful ways of saving $ and protecting the product/revenue that would be just as easy to implement. I think the fact that they aren't addressed says a lot about the motivation behind banning tobacco. 

    • Aggies7 likes this
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KirbyDome89
Jun 14 2019 02:10 PM

 

How many adults just happen to pick up chew? I don't care what Buxton does, especially when he's at home. It's the 16-year-olds watching him that are making that decision and 16-year-olds make 5 poor decision for every 1 good decision.

 

He doesn't have to be a role model, but if he doesn't want to do the right thing by not perpetuating the idea that ballplayers have to chew, then I have no problem if someone else tells him he can't do it at the ballpark anymore.

I can't give an exact number but I'd guess a fair amount. I can't imagine it's much different than something like drinking, where some start in high school and others wait until they're out of the house/adults. 

 

Buxton isn't responsible for random teenagers. I've always pushed back against the notion that baseball players are responsible for those watching, and I probably always will. Those kids have parents or other role models in their lives. It isn't Buxton's duty to parent strangers through a tv screen. He isn't perpetuating any idea. He's not endorsing or condemning the use of tobacco. He's making a personal choice, and it's one he should be allowed to make. I don't chew, and I don't have particularly strong feelings about it being banned either. If MLB decides they don't want their employees doing it, then they have the right to implement that rule, but until then players shouldn't be shamed for opting to use a substance that's within their rights. 

I’ve experienced both. And I would rather sit next to the drunk. Because after a while, the drunk is likely to cross a line that gets him removed due to stadium rules. And I don’t drive to the games. So I say no to the goo.


That’s a really bizarre way of looking at it. You don’t care about another person’s personal liberties until they sit next to you.

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