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While no one expected a repeat of the 1995 Major League Baseball strike, labor negotiations came down to the wire between the MLB and player representatives this week. With little more than 24 hours before the prior player agreement was set to expire, the players and management were able to agree to terms for another five year renewal. Surprisingly though, one of the terms of the new deal prohibits new players from using chewing tobacco, also known as chew, dip, and smokeless tobacco.
This year the family of Tony Gwynn, the famous San Diego Padres player that passed away a few years back due to cancer in his salivary glands, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturers of the smokeless tobacco products. Gwynn's cancer was attributed largely to his 30+ years of using chewing tobacco. While Gwynn's untimely death at the age of 54 can't be undone, the MLB seems to be taking a big step toward disassociating chewing tobacco from baseball, which has been used by players since the very beginning.
Origins of Smokeless Tobacco and Baseball
When the rules of the game were written in 1845, the use of smokeless tobacco was already rampant. Players claimed that using chewing tobacco kept their mouths and mitts moist. Use of various smokeless tobacco products steadily continued until cigarettes gained popularity in the 1950s.
Then, in the 70s, use of smokeless tobacco increased again when the government began warning people about the health risks of smoking cigarettes. In 1993, the Minor League prohibited players, coaches, and staff from using it during games. And in 2011, the MLB prohibited the use of smokeless tobacco during pre and post game interviews.
Local Laws Affect Chewing Players
Cities such as Boston, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles have all banned the use of smokeless tobacco at Major League games. The bans not only impact fans, but notably also the players. And while the league may still allow non-rookies to chew or dip, the league has stated that they expect players to follow local laws that prohibit smokeless tobacco.
As for the new ban affecting rookies, it's not expected to be much of a shock. "Those players should be used to it as that [ban] is already in place in the minor leagues," said the head trainer of the Giants.