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How to Avoid 3 Strikes Against Your Teeth

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

One thing you shouldn’t see at this year’s All Star game held at Great American Ball Park?

Chewing tobacco!

That’s in part because in 2011, Major League Baseball stopped providing their players with smokeless tobacco. Then in 2012, restrictions on smokeless tobacco (which includes chewing tobacco) were implemented for baseball players at many ballparks, including Great American here in Cincinnati.

For years, Major League Baseball has seen the use of tobacco products by its players as a very negative choice for their overall health. They recognized that smokeless tobacco has at least 27 cancer-causing chemicals, and that it is known to directly cause cancer of the mouth, lip, tongue and pancreas. Other effects include oral leukoplakia (white mouth lesions), gum disease, and major gum recession. There is evidence that supports the idea it increases the risks for heart disease and diabetes, among other chronic conditions.

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In years past, professional baseball players have been known to use smokeless tobacco. The tie to tobacco in general was strong, even in baseball earliest days: in fact, trading cards were actually produced within cigarette packages. That kind of direct tie to tobacco existed before much was known about the consequences of tobacco.

Thankfully, today’s Major League Baseball players are often more educated about the extremely negative effects of smokeless tobacco, and more often than not, they recognize how they are role models for countless people.

Photo credit: The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum In the early 1900s, Honus Wagner famously said he would not allow tobacco companies to print his trading card. His baseball card is now one of the rarest and most expensive cards in the world! Photo credit: The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Knowing that many people pick up the negative habit by the time they are in high school—when they see their favorite athletes on TV and model their behavior—retired baseball player Sammy Sosa has been strong in his efforts to support tobacco prevention.

Part of that awareness and education was accelerated due to Tony Gwynn, a Major League player who unfortunately died of salivary gland cancer. Before his death, he said he believed it was from years of using chewing tobacco.

His death led to many baseball players, including Stephen Strasburg to quit the habit entirely, and to speak out about it. Strasburg has since said:

“It’s one of those things where I’ve done it for so long it’s just become a habit, a really bad habit…I think it’s a disgusting habit, looking back on it. I was pretty naive when I started. Just doing it here and there, I didn’t think it was going to be such an addiction. Bottom line is, I want to be around for my family.”

Despite so many players speaking out and being against the use of tobacco, the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) says that children often chew tobacco from a young age because of modeling behavior they see, whether it is baseball or another sport.

It is reported that as much as 20 percent of boys in high school use chewing tobacco, and 1 out of 2 in that group develop pre-cancerous patches in their mouth as a result. Many of those tobacco users are boys who play on youth baseball teams.

A prevailing myth is that just because chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco does not impact the lungs, it is not as bad for you.

This myth could not be further from the truth!

The truth is that smokeless tobacco leads to higher incidences of cavities and oral cancer. Interestingly, out of a group of men in a study who gave up cigarettes for smokeless tobacco, they still had higher death rates from lung cancer after, according to the American Cancer Society.

Do you have a friend or relative who should read this blog post to know about the risks associated with smokeless tobacco? Be sure to send them information that can prevent them from taking on a bad habit.

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