Kids, this could be your dad or your uncle. In 20 years, it could be you.
The death of baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn Monday at the age of 54 has appropriately shined the spotlight on the fatal dangers of smokeless tobacco.
Gwynn chewed the stuff during most of his major league career, and he blamed the salivary gland cancer that eventually killed him on the practice.
The American Cancer Society says smokeless tobacco contains (S)-N'-nitrosonornicotine, a chemical strongly associated with oral cancer. The tobacco contains materials that rough up the membranes in your mouth so the chemicals can enter your system easier. Cancer is usually preceded by painful lesions in the portions of the mouth where the chew makes contact. Three out of four people who use chewing tobacco get non-cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions in their mouths.
Like cigarettes, the tobacco contains addictive nicotine, so the habit is hard to break once you pick it up. The solution is not to pick up the habit in the first place. Kids often emulate their sports idols. Tony Gwynn, a superstar on and off the field, was worthy of emulation except for one thing.
The thing that killed him.