By Mrinal Gokhale
The Milwaukee Common Council Public Safety Committee approved an ordinance to ban smokeless tobacco at sports venues and arenas within the City of Milwaukee.
Specifically, the ordinance prohibits smokeless tobacco around open, semi-open and closed spaces, playing fields, benches, vendor areas, seating areas, parking lots and tailgating areas.
Proposed by Ald. Michael Murphy, this chewing tobacco ban is designed to prevent tobacco chewing among youth and sports players, especially the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team at Miller Park. Starting at 9 a.m., the hearing only lasted an hour before Ald. Bob Donovan said he approved the proposal. Ald. Cavalier Johnson, Ald. Jose Perez and Ald. Terry Witkowski joined him.
Murphy’s idea of banning smokeless tobacco at sports venues was inspired by the fact that baseball players are known to chew tobacco, which in turn makes youth want to follow in their footsteps.
“Kids emulate ball players when they see them chewing tobacco on the ball field and think it’s cool to do,” said Ald. Murphy. He encourages the concept of self-policing when it comes to the policy.
“Baseball players or youth will not get a citation after their first time violating, but just a warning,” Murphy said.
Representatives from the American Lung Association, American Heart Association and the Tobacco Free Kids campaign also explained the impact of smokeless tobacco. “535,000 kids in the United States between ages 12-17 use smokeless tobacco for the first time,” said John Schachter of the Tobacco Free Kids Campaign.
Denis Lynch, professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology at Marquette University, was the third to speak at the hearing. He explained just how detrimental tobacco is, whether smoke free or not. “Many oral cancers are related to tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco or snuff,” Lynch said.
“In addition to over two dozens of cancer causing substances in smokeless tobacco, snuff also contains nicotine, a highly addictive drugs with many negative side effects.”
Crystal West, a grandmother of 20, spoke at the hearing about her experience witnessing her 11 year-old grandson using snuff-chewing tobacco.
““One day he is in his room, and he’s got brown on his mouth,” West said. When she found out it was snuff, she said, the boy told her “all his friends” used smokeless tobacco after baseball games.
She enthusiastically promised the committee a barbecue at her home if they recommend Ald. Murphy’s proposal for passage.
Upon approving, Ald. Donovan said, “I think it’s ironic that we’re banning smokeless tobacco here in Milwaukee when half the nation voted to legalize marijuana.
That’s most ironic and gives you an estimation of how upside down this world can be.”
The Milwaukee Common Council is set to meet again to enact the ban on Nov. 22.