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Lowell Cohn: Smokeless tobacco is wrong but it's a right (w/video)

  • Cornelio and Zachary Zumaya of Chula Vista, Calif., pay their respects at the Tony Gwynn "Mr. Padre" statue at Petco Park in San Diego, Calif., Monday, June 16, 2014. The Hall of Fame player died Monday morning. (AP Photo/U-T San Diego, Howard Lipin)

And restrictions of smokeless tobacco already exist in the majors. Teams do not provide smokeless tobacco in clubhouses, although teams provide plenty of free bubblegum for players. Players cannot put pouches or tins of smokeless tobacco in the pants pockets of their uniforms when fans are in the stadium or when they are in front of TV cameras. Players cannot chew tobacco during TV interviews. Somehow, I don't think players always honor these restrictions.

People who argue for a ban use several arguments. Smokeless tobacco is harmful to a user's health. It is disgusting. It presents a bad image for baseball. Big leaguers are role models for teenagers, and smokeless tobacco users are bad role models. There are probably other compelling arguments I have not mentioned.

I agree with every single argument against smokeless tobacco, but I passionately oppose banning it in the big leagues. I do not smoke tobacco and I do not chew or dip. Never have. This is not a tobacco issue. This is a freedom issue.

I do not like people, even well-meaning people, to infringe on my exercise of free choice. I don't like people telling me what to do. Plenty of people out there love to tell us how to act. They have our best interests at heart. That's what they say. Well, get this, I decide what's in my best interest, thank you.

When Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York, he tried to pass a law banning sale of sweet soft drinks of more than 16 ounces in restaurants and fast-food joints. His heart was in the right place. His brain wasn't. Two courts have struck down his law, although the case is still pending.


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