Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thurmond bill seeks to outlaw smokeless tobacco at MLB ballparks in the state

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond at a Sacramento Park
Monday announcing his bill to ban smokeless tobacco
in Major League ballparks in California. 
ASSEMBLY | 15TH DISTRICT | Assemblymember Tony Thurmond wants to take the spittoon out of Big League clubhouses and ballparks.

Thurmond, who represents Berkeley, Richmond and parts of Oakland, plans to introduce a bill that will ban baseball players and fans from using smokeless tobacco products in Major League Baseball ballparks across the state. Five franchises operate in California. The bill also includes a prohibition on e-cigarettes.

Thurmond's bill would place signage alerting players to the tobacco ban in dugouts, bullpen areas and locker rooms, among others areas of their workplace, in addition, to around the ballpark. A violation of the prohibition could result in a fine.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors are also eyeing a ban on smokeless tobacco at AT&T Park and baseball fields across the city.

The legislation was created with young baseball fans in mind, Thurmond said in a radio interview Tuesday with Canada's CBC Radio. “We want to make sure kids aren’t using tobacco and we know kids look up to baseball players as role models.”

Big Tobacco's formidable lobbying strength in Sacramento will surely provide resistance to Thurmond's bill. "If there’s a fight involved, it’s a fight that’s worth it,” he said. “We can help prevent kids from developing habits that can hurt them.”

There have been pushes in the past to ban tobacco in MLB dugouts. During negotiations for the last Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011, the players' union rejected an outright ban on tobacco and management conceded the point as one of the last disagreements before coming to term on a new labor deal.

The use of  tobacco products by players has been banned in the minor leagues across the country since 1993.

The freshman assembly member's opposition to tobacco also revisits one of the great mysteries of the local 2014 election cycle.

Thurmond's mild upset of Elizabeth Echols last fall was fueled in large part by an Independent Expenditure Committee named Alliance for California's Tomorrow, A California Business Coalition.

The committee, heavily backed by Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, poured more $620,000 in campaign cash last year in support of Thurmond's efforts, despite the candidate being adamant that he had no idea who the group was or why they favored his campaign. Tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris and Lorillard, together contributed $130,000 last year to the IE.

As a member of the Richmond City Council, Thurmond was known as a critic of the nearby Chevron refinery, which fueled confusion as to the why the IE was backing his campaign so strongly.


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