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San Francisco bans chewing, dipping in Big League park

If it’s true that most trends that eventually sweep the U.S. begin in California, then look for more laws regulating the use of smokeless tobacco in public places — at ballparks in particular.

Last week, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to outlaw chewing tobacco from its playing fields, including AT&T Park, home to the San Francisco Giants.

Players and the manager of the team expressed support for the ordinance signed into law by Mayor Ed Lee May 8 but also concern about breaking the chewing habit.

The ordinance, which will take effect January 1, prohibits the use of smokeless tobacco at athletic venues, specifically singling out baseball, which has a long history of players masticating and spitting tobacco juice in view of children who worship them.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who has chewed tobacco on and off for decades but quit at one point with help from a hypnotist.

“It’s a tough deal for some of these players who have grown up playing with it and there are so many triggers in the game,” Bochy added. “I certainly don’t endorse it. With my two sons, the one thing I asked them is don’t ever start dipping.”

The San Francisco ordinance is part of an overall push by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, based in Washington, D.C., which targeted the city and California to promote its antismoking efforts. An even more expansive bill outlawing all tobacco use, including electronic cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, wherever an organized game of baseball is played in California is making its way through the Assembly.

“Today, San Francisco entered the history books as the first city to take tobacco out of baseball. The home of the world champion Giants has set an example that all of Major League Baseball and the rest of the country should quickly follow,” said Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

Smokeless tobacco includes moist snuff and chewing tobacco.

Use of smokeless tobacco has been prohibited in the minor leagues since June 15, 1993. Because major leaguers are unionized, Major League Baseball can’t ban it without an agreement with the Major League Baseball Players Association. Under the current labor contract, players, managers and coaches cannot chew tobacco during interviews, and they can’t carry tobacco while wearing a uniform when fans are in the ballpark.

The league said it supports the efforts of the city of San Francisco “to protect our nation’s youth by eliminating smokeless tobacco products from all ballparks.”

“We’re aware of the signing of the law and have no public comment at this time,” players’ union spokesman Greg Bouris said.

— The Associated Press

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