Tony Gwynn, Hall of Famer and San Diego Padres legend, attributed his long battle with salivary gland cancer to years of chewing tobacco. He passed away Monday morning surrounded by his family. He was 54.
Although smokeless tobacco isn’t as common as it used to be, there are still 9 million Americans using the dangerous substance.
When users chew on smokeless tobacco, they place it in their mouth between their cheek and gum sometimes using so much that their cheek begins to bulge.
“Many people chew on smokeless tobacco thinking that it’s less dangerous than cigarettes since it doesn’t contain smoke or carbon monoxide," says Dr. Bruce. "However, smokeless tobacco actually contains other chemicals including nicotine which directly irritates the lining of the mouth and throat. “
Chewing smokeless tobacco increases the risk of mouth, tongue, cheek, gum, throat and stomach cancer, and it also increases the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.
- Photos: Tony Gwynn Through the Years
It can also lead to nicotine addiction, which eventually could lead to smoking. There’s also an increased risk that could end with gum infections, cavities, loss of teeth and bad breath.
Dr. Bruce’s advice is simple: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking smokeless tobacco is safe. It is not. If you use it, quitting is the best way to protect yourself. If you don’t use it, don’t start.”