After major league Hall of Famer Tony Gwynne of the San Diego Padres was diagnosed with parotid cancer, or cancer of the salivary gland, Washington Nationals’ pitcher Stephen Strasburg announced his decision to give up smokeless tobacco, or “dip.” Gwynne was Strasburg’s hero growing up—and he made a conscious decision to copy his hero’s every move as an aspiring professional baseball player, even the “dip” habit.
Just like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Whether you smoke or chew it, tobacco has been proven to cause cancer.
Use of dip can lead to mouth cancer affecting the lips and gums, along with glands called the parotid glands, which pump saliva into your mouth. Juices produced from the dip contain heavy metals that, with repeated use, may lead to esophageal and pancreatic cancer—two very aggressive forms of the disease. Treatment can require several surgeries that leave the face and jaw disfigured, and in the most serious cases, it may even require removal of the jaw.
Sounds pretty scary, but not everyone is thinking of the consequences. The biggest appeal for young people to take up the habit is often through sports, kind of ironic since dip is definitely not healthy or good for athletic performance.
Strasburg’s announcement that he wants to give quit the habit may help change this unhealthy part of baseball culture. He doesn’t want young people who may admire his playing skills to think that this addictive habit has anything to do with his game. Strasburg admits that quitting is tough, and is taking things one step at a time. Now it’s Major League Baseball’s turn. Despite the fact that chewing tobacco has already been banned in Little League, high school and college play, the MLB isn’t banning use of dip, yet.
Sometimes, it takes a hero to throw the first pitch and help people understand that winners don’t dip.