Baseball, tobacco and cancer
It was Tony Gwynn himself who blamed his cancer on his use of smokeless tobacco after two decades of parking a dip of Snuff between his cheek and gum. Everybody, including family, tried to get him to quit, but Gwynn also acknowledged addiction. And current Major League players reacting to Tony's premature death speak not only addiction, but oral fixation.
More than any other sport, tobacco and baseball - the old-timers used to have a big chaw in their cheek - go hand in hand. Fans may not be aware of it, but smokeless tobacco is prohibited at the high school and college levels, as well as the Minor Leagues. But young players are still using.
You don't have to talk to the American Cancer Society, it's right here on the can: "WARNING: can cause gum disease, tooth loss", "WARNING: this is not a safe substitute for cigarettes." Major League Baseball tried to ban it in 2011, but the players successfully fought it. There are restrictions, however; you can be fined for a tin in your uniform pockets or using it during a televised interview. But it's still relatively easy to spot the pro players who are using it, and that's who the young players are looking up to. Speaking of role models, Paola Flores is a 6th grade teacher and a mother of a 12-year-old athlete, Giovanni Flores, who is working on his basketball game as point guard in training.
"We're always consistently preaching and educating him on the consequences of any form of tobacco," said Paola. "It's unfortunate that we have to have a death or cancer in order for us to have an eye-opener about the dangers of any drug. So yeah, we use that as a reinforcement, and we build on that to educate our children about those poisonous products"
Problem is, you can talk to the youngsters until you're blue in the face about the tenfold increase in the risk of oral cancer from smokeless and chewing tobacco. But when they see the guys in the Majors using, it still doesn't resonate how addictive the products are, according to medical experts. The concern among the health professionals is that the issue won't stay in the public's consciousness after all the tributes to Mr. Padre are over. Can baseball find a way to respectfully honor Tony Gwynn and still emphasize why we no longer have his presence?