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Editorial: Chewing tobacco is baseball’s problem, not Council’s

Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta.
(Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

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Like a bush league pitcher, Ald. Ed Burke just threw a fastball over the middle of the plate. Allow us to clobber it.

Burke wants the Chicago City Council, which apparently has no bigger worries in a city drowning in red ink and violent crime, to ban baseball players from chewing tobacco. An ordinance he shoved through the Finance Committee Friday would ban smokeless tobacco at baseball stadiums and other “professional and amateur” sporting events. It comes up for a full Council vote this week.

What business, we have to wonder, does the City Council have in banning the use of chewing tobacco, a legal product with no second-hand smoke issues, by adults? This is classic nanny state stuff.


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Chewing tobacco is bad stuff, no argument there. It is horrible for your health and kind of gross. When ballplayers like Jake Arrieta, ace pitcher for Cubs, chew tobacco at the ballpark, they set a bad example for adoring kids. And, yes, the use of chewing tobacco is up among young people.

But it’s not a job for the City Council to force ballplayers to be better role models. It’s a job for the Cubs, the White Sox and Major League Baseball. Professional ballplayers are supposed to comport themselves in a way that does no damage to the image of the game. It is written in their contract. If guys chewing tobacco is bad for the image of the game — and it is — Major League Baseball has every incentive to negotiate with the players’ union to ban the practice. They can get it done if they really care to.

The City Council might want to turn their attention to slightly less pressing matters, such as keeping the schools from going bankrupt, stemming the flight of the middle class, and bringing down a murder rate that has become a national shame.

More likely, the Council will take up an ordinance prohibiting ballplayers from scratching themselves.

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