Instead, Major League Baseball, which supports the bans, and local authorities seem to be satisfied that the publicity generated by the new laws is painting a starker picture of smokeless tobacco and serving as a stronger deterrent to its use — and not only among major leaguers.
“The bigger goal is about ending the influence on young people,” said Rick Coca, a spokesman for Jose Huizar, the Los Angeles city councilman who introduced the smokeless tobacco legislation there. “And that’s going to occur over time, not overnight,” he added.
A study released in 2014 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society estimated as many as one-third of major league players used smokeless tobacco, long a staple of baseball culture. These days, based on random observation of various clubhouses, that figure might be a little high. Before recent games at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, one team had four players with smokeless tobacco containers in the clubhouse; other teams had no visible usage.
A majority of players are no doubt aware of the health risks of smokeless tobacco, particularly after the Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn died in 2014, at age 54, from salivary gland cancer. Gwynn used smokeless tobacco beginning in 1977, and attributed his cancer to frequent consumption.
Nevertheless, a number of players, when asked about the new laws, said they viewed them as an invasion of personal rights.
The Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson does not use smokeless tobacco and says he tries to embrace a healthy lifestyle. But as a veteran leader on the Mets, who have had several smokeless tobacco users in recent years, he is critical of the ban.
“There still isn’t 100 percent clarity in terms of who’s going to be enforcing it,” said Granderson, who also sits on the board of the players union. “Is it the Citi Field law enforcement? Is it going to be the police? Is it going to be the New York State Police? Is it going to be Major League Baseball? If someone in the dugout — like we have security there for our protection — if they see a player that’s using smokeless tobacco, are they going to slap them with a ticket at that time?”
One player who uses smokeless tobacco thought the law created an unnecessary burden for players who should be focused on baseball rather than the risk of becoming scofflaws.
“I do definitely look around,” said the player, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Like, are there any cameras on me?”
A spokeswoman from the office of the New York mayor, Bill de Blasio, said city enforcement of the smokeless-tobacco ban was complaint-based; as such, anyone can file a complaint by calling 311. The law falls under the Smoke-Free Air Act, which also bans smoking and electronic cigarette use in bars, restaurants, workplaces and other locations.
“Enforcement has consistently focused on owners/operators, rather than smokers,” the spokeswoman for de Blasio wrote in an email. “We haven’t received any complaints or fined any players.”
Asked about the fact that no real monitoring of clubhouses seems to be occurring and no penalties are being handed out, Major League Baseball issued a statement that said: “While we cannot comment on specific violations of tobacco bans, since our agreement with the Players Association is linked to state or local ordinances that ban tobacco, it is accurate to say that our policy supports the ban and we expect our players to comply.”
In New York, Citi Field and Yankee Stadium are required to post signage informing both patrons and players of the ban on smokeless tobacco. At Yankee Stadium, smokeless tobacco is prohibited throughout the ballpark. At Citi Field, there is a twist: There are three designated smoking locations where smokeless tobacco is allowed because the areas are inside the ticket turnstiles but still considered outside the stadium walls.
Enforcement and penalties for the use of smokeless tobacco vary by city. In Boston, the city police handle citations and violations, although Lieutenant Detective Michael P. McCarthy said that none had been issued yet.
McCarthy added that an officer had to witness an infraction. Even then, he told The Boston Globe last year, it would probably result in an officer only issuing a warning.
In San Francisco, the law is enforced by the police department and public health officials, according to Jess Montejano, a legislative aide for Mark Farrell, the board supervisor who introduced that city’s smokeless tobacco legislation in 2015. Montejano said he believed that no player had been fined at AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants.
“The law is really supposed to act as a deterrent to chewing, which it seems it has,” Montejano wrote in an email.
Similarly, no fines have been handed out in Washington, where the local health department is responsible for enforcement, or in Los Angeles, where the police administer the law, according to officials from both cities.
When the first laws were enacted in recent years, there was some belief that managers and team personnel would be assigned to warn players who continued to use smokeless tobacco.
That does not appear to be the case, however. Miami Marlins Manager Don Mattingly, who used smokeless tobacco sporadically throughout his playing and managerial career, has not made enforcement a pressing issue.
“I haven’t even paid attention, honestly,” Mattingly said recently at Citi Field. “That’s a political issue really in my mind. I don’t like politics that much.”
“I don’t sit around and check on them,’’ Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said when asked whether his players were abiding by the ban. “But they’re reminded, just like with all the other rules that we have.”
But for some players, it is more than just a reminder. Under the sport’s new collective bargaining agreement, all rookies called up to the major league this season are not allowed to use smokeless tobacco in any ballpark, regardless of whether there is a local ban on use of the product. And use of smokeless tobacco in the minor leagues, where few players are covered by the union, has been banned since 1993.
Major League Baseball also offers cessation programs for players who do use smokeless tobacco and want to stop and uses Dr. Michael B. Steinberg, director of Rutgers University’s tobacco-dependence program, as a consultant.
And alternatives to the stimulant effect offered by smokeless tobacco have emerged, too — most prominently, the coffee-grind pouches that are now being marketed to players.
One thought is that once the current generation of players leaves the game, baseball will essentially become tobacco-free because all the new players filtering in will be under a total ballpark ban. But that assumes that a ban that is meant to be more a message than an actual enforcement tool will eventually have the desired impact.
One who thinks it will is Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an advocacy group based in Washington that has led the charge for instituting local bans. “The goal is culture change,’’ he said. “By 2019, at the latest, it will be a very rare sight to see any player using smokeless tobacco. It will be essentially gone from the game by then.”
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