In light of Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn’s tobacco-related death last week, a local baseball official and a doctor spoke to The Daily Star on Wednesday about the dangers of tobacco use, its prevalence in “America’s pastime,” and whether the famous death will prompt users to quit.
The Centers for Disease Control, American Cancer Society and other organizations warn that smokeless tobacco causes cancers of the oral cavity, esophagus and pancreas. According to ESPN writer Tom Friend, Gwynn went through 1½ cans of Skoal each day.
Although notable tobacco-related deaths such as Gwynn’s cause an increase in public awareness, it is not likely that people will stop chewing altogether, local experts said.
Meanwhile, area tobacco dealers said their sales have not been affected by Gwynn’s death, caused by salivary gland cancer, which the 15-time All-Star admitted was attributable to his tobacco use, saying in an interview, “Of course it caused it. I always dipped on my right side.”
Craig LaForte, manager of Smokers Choice on Chestnut Street in Oneonta, said sales of tobacco at his shop have not decreased since Gwynn’s death. He said he doesn’t foresee chewing tobacco becoming less popular because of the publicity surrounding Gwynn’s death.
“I don’t see it going away anytime soon,” LaForte said. “Maybe over the course of a long time. But I think a lot of people already know the health risks and still do it. It’s a vice that’s hard to quit, just like any other.”
LaForte said he is unaware of any local baseball players who buy tobacco from him, but said many local individuals who chew or spit “get treated like second-hand citizens.”
The most popular kind of chew is Grizzly, he said, which costs about $5.