Chicago recently became the fourth city—Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco—to enact a ban on using smokeless tobacco in sports stadiums. I initially ignored it, in part because I never use the stuff and have never known anyone who did, and in part because I knew that Major League Baseball has been trying, with some success, to discourage its ballplayers from chewing and especially spitting on camera, since it is a) disgusting and b) encourages impressionable tykes to take up an ugly and perilous habit. I’m inspired to make the issue an ethics quiz because of the pronouncements of law professor-blogger Jonathan Turley on the issue and the vociferous debate his comments sparked on his blog.
This is a lawful product like smoking tobacco. People have a right to make choices about their lifestyle so long as they do not harm others. That is why I always supported the bans on smoking in public areas due to the second-hand smoke research. That is an externalized harm. What is the externalized harm of smokeless tobacco?
…I happen to deeply dislike smoking and I find chewing tobacco disgusting. I also do not question the link to serious health problems like cancer. However, that should be the subject of an educational campaign by the government and MLB. Yet, in the end, people need to be able to make choices in our society rather than go down the path to paternalistic legislation regulating our good and bad choices.
His supporters on the blog were typified by this comment by Beth (not our Beth, I presume)…
“Tobacco, in all forms, is NOT a singular activity that affects no one else. Tobacco use weighs very heavily on the public at large in the form of health care costs, higher insurance premiums, toxic litter, poisoned air and ground spit. To suggest that limiting tobacco, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes should not be controlled substances goes against all manner of policy for the public good. Wrong stance, Mr. Turley.”
This comment, from “wonderer,” is a fair summation of the other side, which mostly came from the libertarian side of the metaphorical aisle:
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:
Is a ban on smokeless tobacco in ballparks an abuse of government power and an unethical breach of personal choice, autonomy and liberty, or is it a responsible use of government power to encourage public health and safety?
I’ll hold my fire on this one until sufficient numbers weigh in. Remember, the issue here isn’t policy, but ethics.