Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tobacco ban should go up in smoke

First off, I would like to acknowledge that this is a post about chewing tobacco and dip in baseball. I know neither of those involve smoke - I just needed a good title.

"Smokeless" tobacco is no better than cigars. Or cigarettes. Chewing tobacco is just generally bad for you (apologies for the strange voice-overs).

Since it is bad, America does not want its children to pick up the habit. Happy to play the part of Helen Lovejoy are Reps. Henry Waxman and Frank Pallone. They want Bud Selig*, Major League Baseball, and the players union to ban smokeless tobacco from the field.**

*Seriously, if you haven’t read this kid’s writing before go do it. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

**They are also pushing for HGH testing, but that is another subject for another time.

The problems with Reps. Waxman and Pallone’s stance range from the philosophical to the practical, and three main ones seriously cripple their case.

First, you’d think Congress – particularly the Energy and Commerce Committee chaired by Rep. Waxman – would have better stuff to do. (Ok, those last two were jokes.)

Second, how far can government go in telling companies how to regulate their employees? Sure government has been involved in private business for decades if not centuries, but that intervention has always entailed expanding employee rights (no, you cannot make that seven year old work for 60 hours a week in a slaughterhouse without eye protection), not curtailing them. Even bans on traditional smoking tobacco have been passed under the auspices of protecting non-smoking workers from the poor decisions of their customers and coworkers. But that logic doesn’t really work in this case – there is no such thing as second hand dip.

Now, the sports fans out there are probably hopping up and down shouting “anti-trust exemption” at the tops of their lungs. The argument goes that since major league baseball is allowed special privileges by the U.S. Government, the government ought to get a bit more say in what goes on in the sport. Except what would axing the exemption really do? Well for starters it would abolish the remnants of the reserve system, meaning that players would be completely free to negotiate contracts. This doesn’t sounds like something the players’ union, likely the main opponents of Waxman’s measure, would be concerned with. So if Waxman and company are looking for an effective stick, they should keep looking.

Third, will baseball players still be allowed to chew gum? Sunflower seeds? Pebbles? If one of the goals of this move is to influence the decision making of kids, we better find a way to make sure they know that bulging cheek is definitely not filled with tobacco. What happens when baseball players suddenly start eating tomatoes in the dugout*?

*There's no way I was gonna write this post and not make a tomacco reference.

Come to think of it, if we are going to make these athletes teach our kids the right way to live (because, you know, we’re too busy or whatever), should they be allowed to endorse pop? McDonald’s? And what about old movies? Casablanca was awesome but Humphrey Bogart was always smoking a cigarette – somebody had better get Rep. Waxman an airbrush. Or we had better realize that there comes a point where such crusading becomes shrill and suffocating.

Again, tobacco is bad. But do you know what else is bad for our children? Creepy mustaches – maybe Congress should pressure employers across the country to ban those instead.


  1. Nicely done...I especially love how they apparently have no problem with it, at least not enough to bring it up, during the course of a regular season that lasts longer than purgatory, but suddenly it's a big deal sometime between the CS's and game 7 of the WS.

  2. from the lovejoy reference on i was waiting for a tomacco crack. i wasn't disappointed.


Keep it civil.