A bill soon to be introduced in the State Legislature would ban the use of chewing tobacco throughout California beginning next year. And for good reason. The highly addictive stuff causes cancer that can eat away at your throat, mouth, lips, tongue, your face and digestive system. And it can kill.
It's an especially serious threat to the health -- if not the very lives -- of the baseball players who are the most prominent users at all levels of what players call "spit-tobacco."
One-third of Major League players chew tobacco. So do millions of players at all other levels, amateur and professional alike, school kids and minor leaguers, young and old. Many of them began using the tobacco as a direct result of the example set by the Major League users.
The situation is steadily worsening. Every year 300,000 more youngsters join the estimated six million Americans who are regular users.
Cancer is only one of the serious consequences of chewing tobacco facing the users. They also risk heart ailments, high blood pressure, ulcers and severe
gum and tooth diseases.
The baseball players who are the most prominent users of "spit-tobacco " seem generally aware of the dangers, but justify chewing as a way of easing tension. The pro-tobacco players even include the estimated 60 percent who already have developed possibly cancerous lesions in their mouths.
"You get hooked, " as one Major League user explained. "Chewing makes you light headed, on your toes."
Officially, chewing tobacco is banned in minor leagues and college and high school baseball. But the bans are largely ignored and actual use ranges up to at least one-third of the players at all levels.
What's obviously needed is a strictly enforced ban in the Major Leagues and elsewhere throughout organized baseball despite concern that a ban would violate the rights of players. It's much more important that a ban would protect the players' health and that of millions of other Americans.