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Minnesota lawmaker wants smokeless tobacco ban in sports stadiums

One day Target Field could be Skoal-free.

One day Target Field could be Skoal-free.

For years smoking in Minnesota sports stadiums has been a no-no — a decree punctuated by late Twins announcer Bob Casey’s legendary “noooooo smoking” call. Nowadays at Target Field, Marlboro men and women can’t even step outside for a breath of fresh carcinogenic air during games.

At least one Minnesota lawmaker wants to extend the anti-cancer crusade even further. On Monday, Rep. Mike Freiberg, DFL-Golden Valley, introduced a bill that would ban smokeless tobacco from all Minnesota sports stadiums.

Chewing tobacco, the No. 1 turn-on according to women online daters, has long been intertwined with baseball culture. Reportedly 25 to 30 percent of Major League Baseball players use smokeless tobacco. Two years ago, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died of mouth cancer, purportedly stemming from the habit. Beyond the health risks, it’s not a great look, especially for guys who (like it or not) have legions of kids admiring them.

“It’s long been baseball’s position that it’s something we’d like to get out of our game,” Twins president Dave St. Peter tells the Pioneer Press.

While smokeless tobacco is banned in the minor leagues, Major League Baseball only prohibits players from carrying their tins on the field and encourages them not to dip when they’re likely to be on camera. The players union has fought attempts at a league-wide prohibition through its collective bargaining agreement. However, cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and New York have enacted their own stadium bans. California recently approved a stadium ban that kicks in this winter.

In Boston’s iconic Fenway Park, signs now hang in fan walkways and around the clubhouse listing a number people can call to narc on renegade chewers.

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In Minnesota, St. Peter and the Twins are on board with putting the legislative kibosh on mid-game dipping. However, it might take Kirk Gibson-level heroics to get a law in the books this year. With only a week remaining in the legislative session, Freiberg’s bill would likely need to get hitched to a larger relevant bill that’s already cleared procedural hurdles.

“Maybe lightning could strike,” Freiberg tells the PiPress. “I am hopeful that if it does not pass, it will at least be useful in the CBA process with the union.”

But if it does, the effects could reverberate beyond the dugout and into the bleachers. Should it prevent one accidental swill out of someone's spitter, that would be true heroism.