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Baseball Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn, Dies of Cancer from Not Smoking

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Tony Gwynn, outfielder, baseball hall of famer, is dead at 54 of cancer of the parotid and salivary glands. Gwynn, who played outfield for the Padres, habitually used smokeless tobacco. In 2010, Gwynn told ESPN that chewing tobacco is what probably gave him cancer. Gwynn is among the many, many sports athletes, in particular baseball, who uses smokeless tobacco.

Smokeless tobacco is an unsanitary and unsavory habit to take up. While smoking affects the user and those around them causing ill health effects, smokeless tobacco is self-contained unless you are physically near the spitting. There are several options for smokeless tobacco. Chewing tobacco is probably the most common and popular. “Chewing tobacco comes as long strands of loose leaves, plugs, or twists of tobacco. Pieces, commonly called plugs, wads, or chew, are chewed or placed between the cheek and gum or teeth. The nicotine in the piece of chewing tobacco is absorbed through the mouth tissues. The user spits out the brown saliva that has soaked through the tobacco.

Snuff is finely ground tobacco packaged in cans or pouches. It’s sold as dry or moist.

Moist snuff is used by placing a pinch, dip, lipper, or quid, between the lower lip or cheek and gum. The nicotine in the snuff is absorbed through the tissues of the mouth. Moist snuff is also available in small, teabag-like pouches or sachets that can be placed between the cheek and gum. Dry snuff is sold in a powdered form and is used by sniffing or inhaling the powder up the nose.

Snus (sounds like snoose) is a finely ground form of moist snuff that first came from Sweden and Norway. Most commonly packaged in small pouches snus can also be used like loose moist snuff.

Tobacco companies have also created dissolvable forms of smokeless tobacco. These are available as sweet, candy-like tobacco lozenges, orbs, or pellets; strips (like meltaway breath strips); and toothpick-sized sticks. All contain tobacco and nicotine. Depending on the type, they are designed to be held in the mouth, chewed, or sucked until they dissolve. The juices are swallowed.” www.cancer.org

All of these tobacco options contain carcinogens putting the user at risk of developing some form of cancer. People tend to assume smokeless tobacco is a safe diversion from actually smoking but rather contains the same risks. Individuals as young as 12 years old have taken up the habit of smokeless tobacco. At least 35% of the population admit to using smokeless tobacco and close to 50% will become users. In part, the smoking ban contributed to this rise in users who assume the use of tobacco in any form is an alternative to smoking.

Follow your physician’s advice and stay away from all tobacco products. There are no safe alternatives to tobacco use; all products contain potentially life-altering and fatal consequences to its use. Stay safe and be healthy!

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