I have long been a critic of legislation that forces citizens to make healthy choices in their eating or drinking or lifestyle, including the “Big Gulp” laws like those in New York City. Once politicians start to dictate health choices, we have seen the desire to become insatiable as more and more “bad choices” are banned. One such example occurred in my home city, Chicago, when the city council banned smokeless tobacco (as well as raised Chicago’s smoking age from 18 to 21). While the age change will create the anomaly of having 18 year olds subject to the draft in war but not able to choose to smoke, it is the smokeless tobacco that is the most problematic element. There is no second-hand chew health problem for other people as there is for smoking. This is merely an effort to force people to make the choices that the government deems health or correct.
The ban on chew at professional and amateur sporting events, including baseball stadiums, resulted in a blast from Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon who correctly noted that (while he quit chewing 15 years ago) “I’m into personal freedoms. I don’t understand the point with all that. Just eradicate tobacco period if you’re going to go that route. I’m not into over-legislating the human race, so for me I’ll just have to listen and learn.” Amen, St. Joe, Amen.
Chicago is the fourth city to enact a ban on smokeless tobacco –joining Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The entire state of California will have a ban on smokeless tobacco go into effect in 2017. The question is why. This is a lawful product like smoking tobacco. People have a right to make choices about their lifestyle so long as they do not harm others. That is why I always supported the bans on smoking in public areas due to the second-hand smoke research. That is an externalized harm. What is the externalized harm of smokeless tobacco?
The Chicago ban will cost between $100 to $250 for each violation and teams will face a $2,500 fine for the third violation of the law within a yearand a 60-day suspension of their license to operate.
I happen to deeply dislike smoking and I find chewing tobacco disgusting. I also do not question the link to serious health problems like cancer. However, that should be the subject of an educational campaign by the government and MLB. Yet, in the end, people need to be able to make choices in our society rather than go down the path to paternalistic legislation regulating our good and bad choices.