When the Houston Astros and New York Yankees took the field on Wednesday night they were the first players to be prohibited by law from using smokeless tobacco for a regular-season game, a ban covers every person (not just players) in the ballpark as well. New York mayor Bill de Blasio signed the ban into law just before 5:00 pm, a ban that immediately went into effect as soon as the ink was dried.
The new law applies to all sports and recreational areas that issue tickets. New York joins San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles in enacting such laws but the Yankees became the first team to exercise it as they were the first team to have a home game among the group.
“We don’t want our young people to think smokeless tobacco is a cool thing,” de Blasio said.
A ban approved by Chicago’s City Council is expected to take effect by midseason while California has enacted a ban effective in 2017. By that time, 10 of 30 MLB stadiums and teams will have the bans in place. Legislators in Washington and Toronto are also considering the same.
“The bill sends a clear message: Tobacco has no place in New York City professional sports” said New York bill’s sponsor, Councilman Corey Johnson.
The MLB Players Association has resisted a league-wide ban despite an estimated 30% of MLB players using, an issue that will certainly be a major debate topic during negotiations with owners over a new collective bargaining agreement.
Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said his expectation is that MLB players and others will voluntarily comply with the regulations, as have most people when smoking bans have become law at athletic venues.
Johnson, who chairs the New York City Council’s Committee on Health, cited the late Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and former All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling as prime examples of the dangers of smokeless tobacco and the long-term effects it can have. Gwynn and Schilling attributed their cases of oral cancer to smokeless tobacco.
Major League Baseball and the teams in cities with the new laws have expressed support for the legislation.