Dangers of chewing tobacco

Do you have any information about the dangers of chewing tobacco? How do I teach my sons that chewing tobacco is harmful when their favorite baseball players chew?


Numerous studies have shown that dipping snuff or chewing tobacco can lead to oral cancer. Oral cancer, if left unchecked, can be fatal. This is why oral cancer screenings should be part of every routine dental examination. An oral cancer screening is quick, easy, and painless.

It is estimated that about 40 percent of all major league baseball players and about 30 percent of all minor league baseball players chew tobacco or dip snuff. One study found that about 59 percent (83/141) of major league baseball players that use smokeless tobacco already have lesions that may develop into cancer. This is very alarming news! Dr. John Greene, a former dean at University of California at San Francisco Dental School, examined 141 professional baseball players during spring training. According to the April 9, 1998 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, fifteen players had serious lesions that required biopsies. It was reported that Curt Schilling, an excellent pitcher, quit using snuff after a dangerous lesion was detected in his mouth.

During a biopsy, a sample of the lesion is removed to determine if the cells are cancerous. Cancerous lesions may be treated using a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Oral cancer can spread to the lymphatic system. However, oral cancer can also be successfully treated if it is detected early.

Some players claim that chew enhances their athletic performance. However, Robertson et al. (1995) reports that "the use of snuff and chewing tobacco is unrelated to whether or not a baseball player makes it to the major leagues, or how he hits a ball, fields a hit or throws a pitch." However, they did determine that the use of smokeless tobacco is correlated with the presence of oral lesions.

Smokeless tobacco has been banned by all youth baseball leagues, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and all of Major League Baseball's minor league clubs. The Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Association also discourages the use of smokeless tobacco (Connolly et al. 1995). Unfortunately, smokeless tobacco has not yet been banned from the American or National Baseball Leagues. The leagues do cooperate with the National Spit Tobacco Education Program to discourage children from using tobacco. When people team up with tobacco, they lose.

Additional information


  • Connolly et al., "Commentary: It's time Major League Baseball made tobacco history" J. Am. Dent. Assoc. (1995) pp. 1121-1124.
  • Christen et al., "Smokeless tobacco addiction: a threat to the oral and systemic health of the child and adolescent" Pediatrician (1989) 16(3-4):170-177.
  • Robertson et al., "Smokeless tobacco use: How it affects the performance of Major League baseball players" J. Am. Dent. Assoc. (1995) pp. 1115-1121.
  • Greer et al., "Oral tissue alterations associated with the use of smokeless tobacco by teenagers. Part I. Clinical findings" Oral Surg. Oral Med. Oral. Pathol.(1983) 56(3):275-284.
  • Connolly et al., "Snuffing tobacco out of sport" Am. J. Public Health (1992) 82:351-353.
  • Glover et al., "The smokeless tobacco problem: risk groups in North America" Shopland DR, Stotts RC, Schroeder KL, Burns DM, eds. Smokeless tobacco or health. an international perspective. Bethesda, Md.: National Institutes of Health, (1992) NIH publication no. 92-3461:3-10.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Use of smokeless tobacco among adults - United States, 1991" MMWR (1993) pp. 42:263-266.
  • Greene et al., "Oral mucosal lesions: clinical findings in relation to smokeless tobacco use among U.S. baseball players" Shopland DR, Stotts RC, Schroeder KL, Burns DM, eds. Smokeless tobacco or health. an international perspective. Bethesda, Md.: National Institutes of Health (1992) NIH publication no. 92-3461:41-50.
  • Robertson et al. "Periodontal effects associated with the use of smokeless tobacco" J. Periodontol. (1990) 61(7):438-443.
  • Walsh et al., "Prevalence, patterns, and correlates of spit tobacco use in a college athlete population" Addict. Behav. (1994) 19:411-427.
  • Gottlieb et al., "Attitudes, subjective norms and models of use for smokeless tobacco among college athletes: implications for prevention and cessation programming" Health Educ. Res. (1992) 7(3):359-68.
  • Ernster et al. "Smokeless tobacco use and health effects among baseball players" JAMA (1990) 264(2):218-224.
  • Landers et al., "The effects of smokeless tobacco on performance and psychophysiological response" Med. Sci. Sports Exercise (1992) 24:895-903.
  • Edwards et al., "The effects of smokeless tobacco on heart rate and neuromuscular reactivity in athletes and nonathletes" Physician Sportsmed. (1987) 15:141-147.
  • Baldini et al., "Effects of varying doses of smokeless tobacco at rest and during brief high-intensity exercise" Mil. Med. (1992) 157:51-55.
  • Van Duser et al., "The effects of oral smokeless tobacco on the cardiorespiratory response to exercise" Med. Sci. in Sports Exercise (1992) 24:389-395.
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