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Opinion

Readers React: Smokeless tobacco ban at Dodger Stadium is a home run. Can we outlaw crotch-scratching next?

Nellie Fox, Rocky Bridges

Chicago White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox, left, and Washington Senators shortstop Rocky Bridges pose with bulging wads of chewing tobacco in their cheeks before a game at Washington on Aug. 1, 1957.

(William J. Smith / Associated Press)

On Thursday, not a single Dodgers player took to the field with a wad of chaw in his cheek, marking the first time the team has been forbidden to chew tobacco at its home stadium.

As op-ed contributor Matt Welch wrote in The Times this week, the players’ abstinence didn’t come from finally realizing the filthiness of the habit, but instead from the passage of a city ordinance. In January, the L.A. City Council unanimously approved a ban on smokeless tobacco at all baseball stadiums and other athletic venues.

Welch argued that even though dipping is disgusting, it’s an overreach of government to prohibit the otherwise legal practice on the baseball diamond. Players have no responsibility to set an example for others, and their use poses no immediate risk to fans or viewers.

Apparently, Times readers begged to differ. We received a barrage of letters expressing gratitude that Los Angeles’ tobacco culture at the ballpark has finally been snuffed out.

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September Bowman, a nurse practitioner from Goleta, points out the severe health risks that come with packing a lip:

Baseball players are heroes to many young people, who want to imitate them. When people’s heroes do something that seems part of playing baseball, it may influence their behavior.

Chewing tobacco is very addictive, and causes an 80% higher risk of oral cancer, and an increased 60% chance of esophageal and pancreatic cancer. It also increases the user’s chances for heart disease and strokes. The amount of nicotine absorbed from a “dip” of tobacco is three to four times the amount from a cigarette.

Chewing tobacco can also cause nicotine poisoning in children who ingest flavored chewing tobacco products.

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If Matt Welch isn’t worried about the human cost of chewing tobacco (such as suffering and early death), maybe he should realize the amount of tax money which goes for the care of oral tobacco cancer victims.

Chewing tobacco isn’t just unhealthy, says Mission Viejo mom Tammara Moore, it’s also unpleasant to watch:

I say kudos to the City of L.A. and any other city that bans chewing tobacco at the MLB ballparks. As a mother of a son who played Little League, high school, Division I college baseball and is now in the minor leagues … I can tell you the vast majority of people I encounter chewing in the stands spit their used saliva-filled chew straight to the ground. Not only is this a highly unsanitary practice, but it is disgusting to witness.

Watching showers of tobacco spit fly from the players isn’t just nauseating from the stands it’s even hard to look at from the comfort of your own home, writes Sol Taylor of Studio City:

Years ago while watching a baseball game on TV, I had to turn away when Lenny Dykstra would come to bat and watch him eject a mouthful of black sputum on the ground. It was disgusting. Other players of that era also chewed tobacco and spit profusely all over their dugout and the field. It was disgusting. Now the [city has banned] chewing tobacco by players during a game. Long overdue I say.

Besides, there are plenty of workplaces where dipping isn’t allowed, reasons Bob Lentz from Sylmar:

Matt Welch’s op-ed condemning the ban on chewing tobacco by the Dodgers players at Dodger Stadium conveniently omits a critical fact. The Dodgers players and coaches are workers at their place of work. Generally speaking, workers at their place of work in America are prohibited from smoking and chewing tobacco. Why should these ballplayers be treated differently? He also omits the fact that these players and coaches are free to practice their disgusting habit when they are not within the confines of the stadium and at work. Me thinketh the gentleman doth protesteth too much!

Christine Hagel from Santa Monica was a rare reader who would lend her support to Welch’s anti-ban stance. But only if the City Council would outlaw another obnoxious baseball tradition instead:

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I’ve never used tobacco products, and neither my family nor visitors are allowed to use them in my home. Still, I’m impressed with Matt Welch’s screed against the Dodger Stadium ban on chewing tobacco.

Yes, the L.A. City Council’s nanny-state slip showed when it approved an ordinance ensuring that baseball-loving kids won’t be “forced to watch the sports heroes they trust using tobacco.” Oh, wait. Would the council consider enacting an ordinance to prohibit another singularly disgusting major league habit? As a devoted Dodgers fan, I don’t want to be forced to watch any of my heroes scratching his crotch.

Sorry, Mr. Welch. If it’s a package deal to ban chewing tobacco and crotch-scratching, no objection.

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