San Francisco supervisor aims to ban smokeless tobacco from athletic fields

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell -- joined by health officials and anti-tobacco activists -- on Tuesday said he will introduce legislation that would make the city the first in the United States to ban smokeless tobacco from the its athletic fields, including AT&T Park.

Speaking at Moscone Park in his District 2 neighborhood, Farrell said the effort has a personal meaning.

"As someone who played baseball in high school and in college and chewed tobacco for years, I personally know how difficult and addicting chewing tobacco is," said Ferrell. "Right now, 15 percent of high school boys use chewing tobacco. And every single year in the United States, over 500,000 young men and women ages 12 to 17, will try chewing tobacco for the first time."

Cigarettes are already banned from the city's playing fields. The goal is of the new ban is to deter young athletes from picking up a potentially deadly habit.

"Smokeless tobacco causes oral cancer and pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancers that we know," said San Francisco Medical Society President Dr. Roger Eng. "It has no place near our nation's children and no place in our national pasttime."

The announcement came in conjunction with a statewide bill introduced Tuesday that would ban it from all California Major League ballparks. A spokesman for the makers of Skoal and Copenhagen brand smokeless tobacco declined comment, though Farrell said he expects a fight.

"I have not been in contact with our tobacco companies, but I would be shocked if there was not opposition to this," said Farrell

Major League Baseball players could fight it as well, even though the league has taken as stance against smokeless tobacco. A MLB statement released Tuesday said "Major League Baseball has long supported a ban of smokeless tobacco at the Major League level. We have sought a ban of its use on-field in discussions with the Major League Baseball Players Association... we support the spirit of this initiative in California."

Farrell said he hopes to have the ban approved by the full Board of Supervisors and in place by January. But he didn't rule out an exception being made for AT&T Park if MLB players fight it.

Giants fan and chewing tobacco user Kelly Ng was surprised by the proposed baseball park ban.

"I just feel like it doesn't really affect anyone but me. It's not smoking where it pollutes the air or anything," said Ng.