When baseball legend Tony Gwynn passed away June 16, it was a wake-up call to many people about the dangers of smokeless tobacco. Gwynn, who died at 54, was a long-time user of chewing tobacco and it ultimately cost him his life after a long battle with salivary gland cancer.
Since Gwynn’s passing, a number of professional baseball players have announced they will stop using smokeless tobacco, including Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Addison Reed. From a public health perspective, the hope is that their decision to stop using tobacco products will inspire younger players who idolize them to avoid using chew or to quit.
Here in South Carolina, it’s predominately young males who use smokeless tobacco. While our prevention efforts have helped our state achieve the lowest teen smoking rate on record, we are seeing an increase in the number of high school boys who are picking up smokeless tobacco. Today, 15.3% of male high school students in South Carolina now use smokeless tobacco compared to 3.9% of adult males in our state. Continue reading