With the recent passing of professional baseball legend Tony Gwynn, the debate over smokeless tobacco has returned as a prominent topic within the media.
Gwynn, one of the greatest statistical and technical hitters in the history of baseball, and a member of the Hall of Fame, lost his battle with cancer on June 16 at the age of 54. In a prior body of work, I shared my personal memories of Gwynn in a tribute piece.
By his own admission, Gwynn used smokeless tobacco for almost 30 years, and attributed his cancer to years of abusing the product. While the cause of Gwynn’s death, in the medical sense, can’t be blamed on tobacco, common sense has sounded the alarm on what took the life of such a wonderful man.
Simply stated, tobacco, smokeless tobacco, used by so many professional baseball players, killed Tony Gwynn.
In respect to where tobacco stands within professional baseball, especially after the death of Gwynn, that will likely be left to the court of public opinion.
Should tobacco be banned? Should additional education be required while still allowing grown men to ultimately make their own decisions?
Personally, I don’t think something that is legal on the streets, should be banned under the umbrella of professional baseball. Staying true to the freedoms we enjoy in the United States, simply put, if you want to kill yourself “dipping” and/or chewing tobacco, that is your privilege.
Respectfully, I come from the mindset that personal responsibility is the answer. Everyone understands the dangers of all tobacco products, and it shouldn’t take Gwynn’s death to drive the point home. Either MLB stars will exercise responsibility and refrain from the harmful substance in question, or they’ll exercise their freedom to take the obvious health risks.
With alternatives such as bubble gum, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and herbal chew and snuff, baseball players certainly have a plethora of safe products to choose from as a way to stay away from tobacco, or as an outlet to kick the habit.
Undoubtedly, many people will have an opinion on this subject matter, but I would hope that everyone, not only those in the game of baseball, would think about the “big picture” before they partake in another chew, dip, or smoke.
While the topic of smokeless tobacco, in respect to professional baseball, is certainly debatable, life being a precious gift is not up for such debate.
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