San Francisco bans smokeless tobacco at sporting venues

Smokeless tobacco use will be banned at AT&T Park among both players and fans starting next year.

Smokeless tobacco use will be banned at AT&T Park among both players and fans starting next year.

(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
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The long-standing combination of baseball and chewing tobacco will no longer be allowed in San Francisco.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed an ordinance Friday that bans the use of smokeless tobacco at all sporting venues in the city, which includes AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. The ordinance, which will take effect Jan. 1, 2016, makes it illegal for anyone -- including players -- to use smokeless tobacco at the venues.

San Francisco is the first city in the nation to enact such a restriction on the use of smokeless tobacco.


Giants Manager Bruce Bochy applauded the decision: “It’s a step in the right direction,” he told the team’s website. “I think it can be a good thing. It’s going to be hard to enforce. It’s a tough habit to break.”

Giants ace Madison Bumgarner also supported the law. “Hopefully it will be a positive thing for us players. It’s not an easy thing to stop doing, but I support the city.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids pushed for the ordinance, which could be a harbinger for legislation currently making its way through the California Assembly that aims to ban smoking and chewing tobacco at all major league stadiums in the state. On Monday, a coalition of health groups announced they will begin circulating petitions to put an initiative on the November 2016 ballot to raise the state tax on cigarettes.

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell, chief sponsor of the ordinance, said major league players using smokeless tobacco sends the wrong message to children, giving them the idea that they need to use tobacco to play baseball.

Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, echoed Farrell’s stance.

“Mayor Lee and the board of supervisors understand that athletes are role models for impressionable youth,” Myers said in a statement. “When baseball stars use smokeless tobacco, the kids who look up to them are much more likely to as well. Our national pastime should have nothing to do with promoting a deadly and addictive product.”

Major League Baseball banned smokeless tobacco in the minor leagues more than two decades ago, but it remains in use at the major league level. The league reportedly pushed the MLB Players’ Assn., to agree to a chewing tobacco ban during contract negotiations in 2011, but the union refused.


“We’re aware of the signing of the law and have no public comment at this time,” MLB Players’ Assn. spokesman Greg Bouris said.

Once the ordinance goes into effect, violators could be removed from the stadium -- even players. Jess Montejano, an aide to Farrell, said he hoped “the league would work to educate players coming to AT&T Park” in order to avoid enforcement problems.

Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento contributed to this report.