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I was deeply saddened upon hearing about the recent passing of baseball legend and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. His life was ended far too soon by cancer that he attributed to his longtime use of smokeless chewing tobacco. The dental profession has been warning the public for years about the association between this dangerous habit and the subsequent development of oral cancer and yet, many people continue to ignore these warnings.

Baseball players especially are hesitant to discontinue this life-threatening habit for fear of giving up a ritual and habit that they claim has been part of their professional livelihood and image. It sets a terrible example for the millions of young people who watch baseball at the ballpark or on TV and often see players and managers using tobacco. I had many baseball heroes growing up that I looked up to. Fortunately I tried to emulate their hitting, fielding and running rather than their “chewing”. I encourage everyone to think twice before using any form of smokeless tobacco.

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