Waxman baseball tobacco ban not worth chewing on

Major League Baseball should ban players from using smokeless tobacco in dugouts and on the field because of its health risks and influence on kids, according to Rep. Henry Waxman (D.-Ca.), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

“Millions of young fans are exposed on a daily basis to the use of smokeless tobacco by their heroes,” Waxman, a California Democrat, said recently at a hearing in Washington. “This is a serious health risk. The increased use of smokeless tobacco will mean millions more teens getting hooked on nicotine.”

A few points up front.

Anybody who uses tobacco in any form has a screw loose. It’s a powerful carcinogen. Chewing tobacco, or smokeless tobacco as it’s sometimes called, can cause cancer to any part of the body it touches, including lip, tongue, cheeks, gums, and the floor and roof of the mouth. Personally, I like those body parts. Granted most people who chew will not develop cancer from it. It’s all a matter of odds.

Chewing is clearly one of the most disgusting habits ever invented. The only ones I can think of that are more disgusting are too disgusting to mention. For example, there’s . . . Nope!

At one time in public places like post offices and train stations, women had to hold up their skirts as they walked because the floor was literally covered with spit. Sure, there were plenty of spittoons but invariably men’s aim was off and a lot of men never even tried to use them. Why, when there was a perfectly good piece of floor below them?

I tried chewing tobacco once when it was offered to me in the Army. The nicotine rush came on so fast I almost fainted. The taste was horrific. Yeah, I spit and fast.

I also don’t doubt that seeing their sports heroes chew leads some younger people to chew, and that’s truly deplorable.

My problem with Waxman’s would-be edict is that this isn’t something the government should do, it’s something Major League Baseball, individual teams, and fan groups should do.

There has never been a more powerful motivator than societal opprobrium and approval. Society makes clear certain things are wrong or right through social carrots and sticks. But it doesn’t work when government does it, because government just passes a law. The more government became involved in negative behaviors like unwed pregnancy the worse they got, in part because government involvement replaced the old strictures.

Why is chewing already vastly less common than it once was? (Note inset photo with a spittoon behind every shooter in a gallery. When I go shooting, there’s no spittoon behind me.) It’s the success of societal opprobrium.

In other words, it’s precisely because I think that chewing is such a bad habit that I want government to back off. This is an issue for others to deal with. And actually, I’ve got a nifty idea. Instead of directly outlawing spitting, why doesn’t MLB mandate a spittoon at the pitcher’s mound and at each base? THAT will send a message!