An increasing number of cities and teams have been banning smokeless tobacco from their ballparks. On Thursday, the St. Petersburg city council banned smokeless tobacco at all organized sporting events, which includes Tampa Bay Rays games.
After the untimely death of Tony Gwynn due to oral cancer, and his battles with the disease previously, quite a few professional baseball players eschewed using smokeless tobacco. They had seen a legend of the game lose his health due to his habit, as the reality of what it can do to a person truly hit home.
We have also seen quite a few cities ban the usage of smokeless tobacco in public establishments. Cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York have bans in place, as does the state of California. On Thursday, St. Peterburg joined that ever increasing list, banning smokeless tobacco at at all organized sporting events, including Tampa Bay Rays games.
It makes sense that different municipalities would be looking to ban smokeless tobacco. It is already virtually impossible to find places that still allow smoking, and with the restrictions as to how far away a person needs to be from a building to smoke, it was a matter of time before smokeless tobacco caught the same attention.
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However, this also brings up the interesting question of exactly how much influence the local government should have on such activities. This has been an ongoing debate for years, and these bans will not do anything to diminish the discussion. Unlike cigarettes and second hand smoke, the players are only really harming themselves.
In theory, this ban is aimed at stopping children from trying these products. By seeing others, particularly the athletes they look up to, using tobacco, the theory is that they will as well. This is just the latest in the long line of attempts to keep kids away from tobacco, including advertising bans. Even baseball cards were affected, with the 1989 Fleer Randy Johnson rookie card having a Marlboro billboard removed from the picture.
Just like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco is becoming a targeted item. St. Petersburg is just the latest area that has banned its use at sporting events, including Tampa Bay Rays games. Other areas are likely to follow suit in the future.