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King County bans chewing tobacco for Mariners players and fans at Safeco Field

SEATTLE -- Droves of Mariners fans converged on Safeco Field on Thursday, drawn to everything they love about baseball.

For some, that love also comes with an ingrained habit.

“I would say 50% of the guys who go to a Mariners games over 18 probably have a chew in their back pocket,” Mariners fan Trey Siegel said.

And when it comes to MLB players, chewing tobacco is synonymous to baseball.

“It’s part of the culture,” Siegel said.

That little bit of culture now erased, at least in King County.

“We are hoping to send the right message by taking tobacco out of Major League sports in King County,” King County Council member Rod Dembowski said.

Dembowski, who is on the King County Board of Health, voted to ban chewing tobacco from all professional sporting venues in the county. The venues include Safeco Field, CenturyLink and KeyArena.

The board believes chewing tobacco is a public health issue and Dembowski says the ban for him has a lot to do with setting a good example for children.

“I love baseball and when I see baseball players chewing tobacco, I get sad,” said one child addressing government leaders.

Parents believe it’s the right move.

“I think chewing tobacco is a thing of the past,” Christopher Bryant said.

But for Siegel, it’s the present. Once a college baseball player, he says many on his team relied on dipping.

“I don’t recommend doing it, but I think it’s up to the person to make their own decision,” Siegel said.

Leading some to believe the ban is a government overreach.

“I am not a personal fan of chewing tobacco. However, I don’t think it’s the government’s role to regulate that,” Kyle Shanafelt said.

“If the Mariners hadn’t come to us to ask us to do it, I don’t think we would be doing it,” Seattle City Council member Sally Bagshaw said.

Bagshaw says the Mariners came to government leaders two years ago leading to the ban.

A spokesperson for the Mariners confirmed support for the ban, which will go into effect May 15.

As for enforcement of the ban, there is not much to it. The county says signs will be posted at Safeco Field warning people of the ban but there are no plans to ticket anyone breaking the rules.