The death of Padres star and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn is causing a new awareness of the dangers of smokeless tobacco. Addison Reed and Stephen Strasburg, two former San Diego State players now competing in the major leagues, both have announced that they are giving up the habit.
Gwynn, who played for the San Diego Padres for almost two decades before coaching the San Diego State Aztecs, contracted an aggressive case of cancer that he attributed to his use of dipping tobacco, a habit he picked up in the early 1980s when he started playing professionally.
For his part Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals has come out against the use of smokeless tobacco. He will quit, he says, because he wants to be around for his daughter as she grows up.
“I think it’s a disgusting habit, looking back on it,” Strasburg said to the media. “I was pretty naive when I started. Just doing it here and there, I didn’t think it was going to be such an addiction…. Bottom line is, I want to be around for my family. This is something that can affect people the rest of your life. [Chewing tobacco is] so prevalent in this game. It’s something we all kind of grew up doing.”
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ Addison Reed has also announced that he is giving up tobacco. Reed played for Gwynn at San Diego State so the older man’s death hit close to home for the younger star player.
“It’s one of those things where I’ve done it for so long it’s just become a habit, a really bad habit,” Reed said. “It was something I always told myself I would quit, like next month, and the next thing you know it’s been six or seven years.”
Major League Baseball issued rules restricting smokeless tobacco in 2011 but the player’s union has not gone so far as to initiate a ban on its use on the field.
Scientists report a connection between smokeless tobacco and various forms of cancer. Scientists, however, have not found a conclusive link between use of smokeless tobacco and the parotid cancer (cancer of the salivary glands in the mouth) that killed Gwynn.
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