Tony Gwynn got salivary gland cancer but won't denounce chewing tobacco

Nor will Stephen Strasburg, Bruce Bochy, Jake Peavy, Mark Kotsay

Tony Gwynn, Stephen Strasburg, and Doug Harvey
  • Tony Gwynn, Stephen Strasburg, and Doug Harvey

When baseball icon Tony Gwynn revealed in 2010 that he had salivary gland cancer and blamed it on decades of using chewing tobacco, he set off firestorms: prominent Major League players and managers proclaimed they were trying to break the life-threatening habit, and the league, after negotiation with players, limited its use.

Several San Diego–connected baseballers were front and center: former San Diego State pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg and former Padres manager Bruce Bochy worked to kick the addiction. Gwynn was reluctant to be a role model for Major League Baseball’s banning the substance, and former Padres star pitcher Jake Peavy, a dipper, and player representative Mark Kotsay, now with the Padres, did not favor a ban, asserting that players can make their own decisions. (Footballers suffering multiple concussions make the same argument before lapsing into dementia.)

Prominent politicians, along with religious and anti-tobacco groups, pressured the Major League Baseball commissioner to ban the goop completely. Reformers noted that one-third of players use the stuff, providing tobacco companies free advertising to reach impressionable young people. Under the league labor agreement worked out late last year, players can use pinches during games but can’t have smokeless tobacco packages in their back pockets when fans are in the park and can’t chew while being interviewed on television. The substance has already been banned in Minor League Baseball and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, although college enforcement is sometimes weak.

Baseball and chawin’ terbacky have been inseparable since the 19th Century. The term “bull pen” arose when adoring females tossed Bull Durham tins at relief pitchers. Chewing “does give [players] a high,” says Niki Sue Mueller, program director of Wyoming Through with Chew, but it doesn’t enhance performance, although some players insist it keeps them alert, she says.

Marie Cocco of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says, “People get addicted quickly to smokeless tobacco; what [players] are feeling is their nicotine craving being soothed.”

Plugs may provide a brief euphoria, but “Nicotine constricts capillaries,” says Paul Turner, director of the North Carolina Spit Tobacco Education Program. “If used during a game, it can cut down endurance.” Turner has crossed the nation preaching against chewing tobacco with San Diegan Doug Harvey, a former big league umpire who blames his oral cancer on long use of the wads.

Gwynn’s cancer — which led to a 14-hour, dangerous operation this year — will hopefully touch off an open debate between two factions: the “harm reduction” adherents, backed by Big Tobacco, who argue that smokeless tobacco helps people shake the more dangerous cigarette addiction, and the public health experts, who say that spit tobacco is linked to mouth, pancreas, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, and stomach cancers and increases risk of cardiovascular disease, precancerous mouth lesions, and gum and tooth problems.

On October 14, 2010, the American Council on Science and Health put out a news release about Tony Gwynn’s cancer: “There is no evidence at all linking salivary gland cancer with smokeless tobacco, not even from the ‘dip’ type Gwynn used,” proclaimed Dr. Gilbert Ross, medical director of the New York–based council. (It’s true that other physicians have said there is no known link between that rare cancer and chewing tobacco, but Mueller says there has been little research. “It took 20 years to link cigarettes to lung cancer,” she notes.)

Ross speaks out for harm reduction, claiming that only 5 percent of smokers are able to quit each year. Smokeless tobacco, particularly products like snus, a moist powder developed in Sweden, “have either no or no measurable such risk,” he says, and can help people quit cigarettes. He does not encourage people to take up tobacco, “but smokers need to have lower-priced, reduced-risk products to help them get off deadly cigarettes.”

Ross has a questionable background. According to official records of the University of the State of New York, New York State Education Department, Ross was found guilty in 1993 of 13 counts of fraud for his eight-week participation in medical clinics defrauding Medicaid. He was making $5000 to $10,000 a week. He lost his medical license in 1995 and was incarcerated for most of 1996 and 1997. He was hired by the council the next year and got his medical license restored in 2004 after a probationary period.

He claims he has always believed he was innocent, but according to New York records, he admitted that his motivation was greed, he needed the money, and said, “I violated every ethical trust placed in me as a doctor.”

The American Council on Science and Health is questionable, too. Its mission is to challenge medical and health claims made by critics of business. I asked Ross if the council got money from the tobacco industry. His response: “I can admit that we accept funding from anyone who will give us money, as long as it is ‘no strings attached.’” The council has stood up for such oft-criticized industries as coal, oil, and nuclear power, as well as tobacco.

“Our adversaries in the ‘environmental,’ chemophobic, alarmist, anti-business, anti-technology camp still call us ‘paid liars for industry.’ It’s not the funding, it’s the message,” says Ross, attacking “so-called consumer advocates.… Anything goes to cast aspersions on profit-making businesses.”

Ross and others in the organization are frequently quoted in the media challenging environmentalists, consumerists, and others who “sow fear and loathing,” he says.

Use of chewing tobacco among teen boys is rising. Are their baseball heroes to blame?

Use of chewing tobacco among teen boys is rising. Are their baseball heroes to blame?

But use of smokeless tobacco among high school boys zoomed 36 percent between 2003 and 2009; now 15 percent use it, points out Cocco, noting that “extensive use among high school coaches is a problem.” In the Wyoming frontier culture, 20 to 25 percent of high school boys chew, says Mueller.

“Smokeless tobacco is the tobacco companies’ playing card; they want to keep people addicted to nicotine,” says Mueller.

Echoing that statement, Turner adds that certain nicotine-replacement therapies such as gum, lozenges, and patches have the approval of the Food and Drug Administration. Chewing tobacco does not. Public health officials agree that spit tobacco is unacceptable in harm-reduction programs, he says.

Share / Tools

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • AddThis
  • Email

More from SDReader


Gilbert Ross would have us believe that the American Council on Science and Health just coincidentally comes down on the side of the industries that pay them. In addition to fraud, the convicting judge also cited him for perjury. After having served time in federal prison, the American Council on Science and Health felt that this felon was uniquely suited to be their medical director. No, ad hominems may not in and of themselves be sufficient arguments, but sometimes you just have to use your sense as an intelligent being and dismiss the allegations of known frauds.

You are correct: Ross got in trouble for perjury, too. I have no trouble with ad hominems. Best, Don Bauder

Don, you are my financial news hero, and have been for many years, but you are actually wrongly attacking Mr. Ross for his past.

Considering the corruption of our judicial system, and the well-documented piling on of superfluous charges for daring to go to a full trial instead of copping a plea, I don't think relying on judicial records and reprimands would tell the whole story.


I worked in Sweden for two years. Sweden has the lowest developed country incidence of lung cancer and the highest per capita snus usage.

That's causation, not correlation.

On a personal level, a professional colleague of mine in Stockholm had a mother in the Swedish government, running the health ministry. She was in charge of studies looking hard at snus.

SNUS is emphatically NOT to be confused with traditional baseball player chawin' backy! Different chemical process, different delivery method, different degree of exposure, and greater dosage control.

Smoking cigarettes is addictive and harmful. The addiction is to nicotine. The harm is inhaling SMOKE.

Snus, which comes in a pouch which prevents direct contact with your skin, delivers the nicotine without any smoke.

YES. There must be some harm. But compared to lung cancer?

I was working at my uncle's liquor store when I was thirteen. I didn't pick up the most savoury of habits from my co-workers and the store's patrons, and smoking has followed me since then.

But now I use snus instead.

I used to gasp walking up stairs. Now I don't, even when I'm carrying my son.

I save a lot of money compared to smoking, yet still get that nicotine rush that (as you know) writers and pitchers can rely on to improve focus and flow when it counts.

Yet, as Mr. Ross so correctly states, snus is dogmatically lumped in with old-style chawin'backy. That stuff, fermented, wadded up, so potent you have to spit (never have to spit with snus), resting directly on your mucus membrane skin...of course that's going to be more likely to mess up your salivary gland.

But compared to smoking? In the argot of our internet age, Don, my old friend, I call "bowl sheet" on your confusion of snus with chawin'backy, and taking at face value both the dogmatic denials of health benefits resulting from the harm reduction approach.

Instead, look to Sweden, you'll find plenty, Don. compare their reputation for honesty with the USA.

Mr. Ross (who has endured worse I'm sure) can take care of himself.

I'm telling you, as a friend, you're quite wrongly conflating, confusing, and over-simplifying. You're taking at face value the words of officialdom, and in my personal experience as well as having looked into the matter quite extensively (with my own biases, admittedly) I want to respectfully ask you to re-consider and even write a follow up to this article.




Well it IS how you opened your post. He was convicted of defrauding Medicare and lying about it. This wasn't the end of his questionable behavior and it is justifiably brought up in light of his current job. It isn't as though he is working for a charitable organization providing affordable healthcare for the needy or the like. He's working for an organization that has a history of denying that harmful products hurt people, getting paid by the companies who make those products. So when someone like Don Bauder does his readers the favor of letting them know about these conflicts of interest, he should be commended for it. People like Ross would like for us to wait decades for the medical field to find the reasons why certain products cause the harm that they do before we do anything about them. This is what was done with tobacco and we all know the consequences. Unfortunately, it leaves us with American Council on Science and Health proclamations that burning PVC is no worse than burning wood, or arsenic in pressure treated wood is okay, or that lead paint is okay, or asbestos should not be removed from schools, or that people who have been injured by chemicals are “chemophobes”. Ross and his organization are truthophobes. They fear the truth about the companies that they serve.

The take-away point of Bauder's article is that NO form of nicotine is good. Teen use of smokeless tobacco is on the rise and this trend needs to be fought. They know that smoking is bad; they need to know that smokeless tobacco is bad as well, in all its forms.

The idea that NO form of nicotine is the only form allowed ignores the issue here...

Would you rather that your smoker friends die or switch to a product that is dramatically less harmful if they cannot quit?

Snus may not be something you like or appreciate, but the scientific evidence is irrefutable. Compared to smoking or "chawin'backy" snus dramatically improves health for former smokers who switch.

That has nothing to do with any individual's run ins with the law. It's inexcusable to ignore that evidence COMPLETELY because of someone's past.

Regardless of Dr. Ross's past, snus is not to be feared but welcomed as a useful tool in reducing the harm of smoking.

Thanks are owed to Mr. Bauder for allowing me to weigh in this fraught but crucially important subject. His piece is unfortunately, however, laden with misinformation whose consequences will be to increase the toll of "tobacco" (actually smoking)-related disease and death. It's unfortunate that he and the "experts" quoted are apparently devoted to the mantra of anti-tobacco zealots in the abstinence-only, "quit or die" camp, who are given free rein to conflate the issue of "chewing tobacco," "spit," and "dip" with tobacco harm reduction efforts. These have been focused on truthfully informing addicted ADULT SMOKERS about almost-harmless modern smokeless products such as snus, which is neither chewed nor spit, as it's not "terbacky." Snus is used as a replacement, a cessation aid, for deadly cigarettes. Referring to harm reduction advocates (including by insinuation me and my organization) as "backed by Big Tobacco" ignores ACSH's 33-year history of advocacy against smoking, and insults the large majority of harm reduction adherents campaigning to save smokers' lives, fighting an uphill battle against the forces of dogma and zealotry apparently so admired by the writer. Mr. Bauder and his quoted "experts" fail to acknowledge these simple yet tragic realities: Despite the dramatic decline in overall smoking rates, there remain 46 MILLION adult smokers in the U.S.A., among whom about 450,000 die as a result--not from "tobacco," but from SMOKING. Three-quarters say they want to quit, but only a tiny fraction succeed. Scholarly articles prove that modern smokeless products are 99% less harmful than cigarettes, they are effective at helping smokers quit cigarettes, and the experience in Sweden over the past 50 years confirms that. Respected health organizations, aside from my own, have endorsed this policy, including the Royal College of Physicians in the UK and the American Association of Public Health Physicians. The fact is: the currently approved cessation products made by Big Pharma do not work. When one of these experts says, "there's no safe way to use tobacco, stick to the approved products," they are saying, in effect, "keep on smoking." Mr. Bauder quoted me correctly and often, but his background comments about my personal history seem to be an attempt to convince the reader that my assertions are suspect. Fine--look them up in the peer-reviewed literature, but don't use baseball's chaw and Tony Gwynn's salivary cancer as touchstones to mislead addicted smokers about the potential benefits of harm reduction to try to save them from their deadly addiction using nearly-risk-free snus-type products. Gil Ross MD/ACSH

Dr. Ross and his organization are backers of the so-called harm reduction approach. Generally speaking, health professionals do not favor that approach, as Ross says. Best, Don Bauder

Mr. Ross can cry his crocodile tears over smokers all he wants. The truth of the matter is that his record gives lie to any true concern as he is perfectly fine with the rampant harm and death due to the chemicals manufactured by the companies he shills for. The ACSH has its puff pieces along the lines of "be careful with razor blades, research shows they can cut you", just to establish credibility by actually speaking truth occasionally. As far as smoking cessation products goes, the recent past has shown the ACSH in high gear in support of e-cigs. They probably ARE a good way to quit, but the amount of SPAM the ACSH has put out on the subject makes it very clear that they are getting paid for what essentially are promotion pieces.

As I said, you are an idiot. E-cigarette companies are mainly based in China and I have no idea nor does anyone in my org. who runs them or who funds them. The data on their success rate--hey you got something right!-is not published yet but it seems likely that they will help addicted smokers quit IMHO. I wish them every success! And that they do indeed become big-time ACSH supporters! Now go find someone else to stalk for a while. gr

Who are you "brainfan"? Do you get paid to oppose tobacco in all of its forms, regardless of the actual health effects...are do you do this as a hobby?

The "perjury" referred to by my pal and stalker "brainfan" was derived from the fact that I testified to my innocence at trial. Since I was convicted, the additional finding and penalty was routinely applied by the judge. That process has since been found to be unconstitutional, smacking more of Stalin-era justice than our American system. Just fyi. gr

The perjury aspect was mentioned in the New York State records on Dr. Ross, his incarceration, and the losing of his license. Best, Don Bauder

6.The "perjury" referred to by my pal and stalker "brainfan" was derived from the fact that I testified to my innocence at trial. Since I was convicted, the additional finding and penalty was routinely applied by the judge

Hmmm........the judge cannot make a finding of perjury, that is for a jury- at least that is how I thought it worked.......guess I am worng on this one.

Dear S-P----NOW you are correct, but in 1993 that was the sad and sorry situation, and why the overwhelming majority of fed. criminal defendants declined to testify to their own innocence! Unbelievable, right? I was warned, but chose to tell my version of those events anyway---and got the hammer afterwards. As I said, that process/policy has thankfully been deemed UNCONSTITUTIONAL and now judges must make a specific ruling after a specific hearing. gr

Wouldn't a jury have to make the ruling on if perjury were committed?? Not the judge (unless you waived a jury trial?)??

You can ad hominem me from dawn till dusk, but if you take a few minutes to actually look up my statements relating to snus and tobacco harm reduction, perhaps you'll see that your having fun with my history has the hopefully unintended consequence of keeping millions of addicted smokers on their deadly smokes, to the delight of the makers of useless nicotine patches and toxic pills. Or would you just rather stick to the personal anecdotes and ignore the public health aspects? I admit I'm disappointed Mr. Bauder given our discussions on email I had held you in higher regard. O well.

Generally, public health officials do not embrace use of smokeless tobacco, including snus, as a way to shed cancer risks from smoking cigarettes. Best, Don Bauder

Public Health officials in Sweden certainly DO embrace snus as a replacement for smoking.

They strongly advocate in favor of it, publicly, repeatedly.

Is that because the doctors in Sweden are being paid off by big tobacco? Or is it possible that they are looking at the evidence instead of blindly opposing tobacco in all its forms?

You get paid to perpetuate harm and as such, you deserve to be targeted. You can hypocritically complain that disagreements with your stance on this issue will keep people addicted to smoking, yet you turn around and do your best to ensure that hazardous chemicals are not afforded the study and treatment they need to avoid catastrophic illnesses.

The issue is one of credibility, or a lack thereof. Your blatant conflicts of interest need to be known by all.

You're attacking Dr. Ross's credibility.

I actually looked at the evidence.

You lose, and Dr. Ross wins.

Wow, now Don Bauder is keeping millions of smokers addicted?

Denial, it's a great business for Tobacco Road and the shills they fund.

My view, which is espoused by the experts, is that nicotine addiction is just plain bad. The chewing of tobacco leads to all kinds of health risks, as stated in the article. Best, Don Bauder

13.My view, which is espoused by the experts, is that nicotine addiction is just plain bad

Don, nicotine supposedly more addictive than heroin. Since I use neither I have no way of knowing, but have read this many times in the past. Can you confirm this-or have you even heard this??

The experts do NOT agree with you at all, Don!

The experts will tell you that nicotine is NOT what causes the harm. It's the smoke that kills you.

By delivering the nicotine without smoke, and without contacting your skin, snus can dramatically improve public health.

What's more important to you? Moral purity (I oppose tobacco, so I'm superior!) or preventing premature deaths?

If it's the second, you need to look at the EVIDENCE on snus instead of resorting to cheap ad hominem attacks.

After all, if I'm in favor of snus as a replacement for cigarettes, does that mean I'm paid-off...or does it mean that I actually care about my health and did something to improve it.

Yes, it would be ideal if I just quit cold-turkey. But since that didn't work, I'm content to use snus and breathe freely again while still using that evil nicotine.

Condemning me for this, or saying that I shouldn't have this option and can either quit or die...that's callous in the extreme.

Re: Generally, public health officials do not embrace use of smokeless tobacco, including snus, as a way to shed cancer risks from smoking cigarettes. Best, Don Bauder--

That's very true Don--worse even, none of them do! That is the received wisdom that is so hard to dislodge, given the stated adherence to the decades-old "no safe tobacco" (true, but there is safer and much safer) adage. All the big public health non-profits and our own governmental authorities have a huge blind spot on this issue, well-earned by the 20th century tactics of the cigarette companies, with their fraudulent deceptive science-corrupting machinations. NOW it's the tobacco companies who--having seen the handwriting on the wall in the form of declining cigarette usage and sales concomitantly with rising smokeless sales--have taken up the promotion of less harmful alternatives. But the CDC FDA CTFK ACS etc etc refuse to get past the antipathy and look for creative paths to reduce the still-dreadful toll of cigarettes. Can anyone dispute the recent studies proving that the current cast of NRT patches etc do not add to cold-turkey quitting---yet continue to generate huge sales for pharma while "helping" maybe 5% quit? Can anyone dispute the Swedish experience showing massive declines in smoking commensurate with rising snus use? So sticking to the failed mantra, "no safe tobacco alternative" condemns those aforementioned millions to "quit or die." The academic literature (which I can send you) shows that modern smokeless products do NOT cause oral cancer or heart or lung disease, and of course there is zero second-hand smoke. I hate to be repetitious and a bit officious, but some independent research as opposed to ad hominems and "the official agencies do not endorse" patter would justify your credentials as a journalist and not a copy-and-paster. With all due respect--I did not mean to blame you for the millions who smoke, but neither are you blameless when you conflate "terbacky" and snus sachets, neither chawed nor spit--you know better. GR

There is another angle: the Surgeon General, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization all say that smokeless tobacco causes cancer and other diseases, as well as addiction. Use of smokeless products is linked to addiction to cigarettes. Smokers useless smokeless products instead of quitting smoking. So they are even more vulnerable. Best, Don Bauder

NICOTINE ADDICTION (as addiction to anything) is BAD. NO ONE should smoke, spit, chew, or apply patches. However,the sad but true fact is that 45 000 000 smokers ARE addicted and a goodly segment of them will get cancers of all types, heart disease, emphysema, and will suffer prolonged agonies and die prematurely--because of their addiction to nicotine!! What shall we do about that, I ask you?? Ignore it? Pretend that patches and Zyban and Chantix work? Advise smokers to quit? Sure, but they don't. Let's tell them about the possibility that smokeless tobacco, e.g. snus, maybe can help them stay on this safer form of nicotine and be 99% less dangerous. What do you think? gr

I have to go along with health officials. I don't buy the harm reduction approach. I agree that smokeless tobacco doesn't create the secondhand smoke problem. However, the substance in spittoons is repugnant, whether or not there are health risks. Best, Don Bauder

"However,the sad but true fact is that 45 000 000 smokers ARE addicted and a goodly segment of them will get cancers of all types, heart disease, emphysema, and will suffer prolonged agonies and die prematurely--because of their addiction to nicotine!! What shall we do about that, I ask you?? Ignore it?"

That is what the ACSH does regarding harm from the many hazardous chemicals that have been shown to harm people, so why the sudden concern here? Shoot, I forgot: I answered my own question above. Because you get paid by the e-cig companies.

Spit tobacco users get addicted to nicotine quickly. Some later take up cigarettes. The ACSH takes up the cudgels for many companies whose products are deemed harmful to health or environmentally deleterious. Those companies are also donors. ACSH says there is no quid pro quo between its purported scientific research and the donors. Anyone wanting to believe that is welcome to do so. Best, Don Bauder

I quit smoking more than a year ago (February 12, 2011) under doctor's orders. Haven't smoked one cigarette in that 13-month period. I used the patch for a couple of months, then no more. Has it been difficult?--YES! Impossible to quit?--NO. Glad I stopped?--YES. Do I urge anyone else to quit?--NO. Because that does not work; it's a personal decision one has to make.

I assume you didn't take up spit tobacco on the road to quitting, as Dr. Ross so passionately advocates. Best, Don Bauder

Don, I have replaced smoking with snus.

I have dramatically better health as a result.

That's just anecdotal, I know.

So look at the extensive studies conducted in Sweden, where a significant part of the population has done the same with similarly dramatic improvements in public health.

I have nothing but admiration for those who can quit cold turkey. Recent studies suggest that the patches and gum do very little to help, and it's better to try cold turkey instead.

Those same recent studies showed that snus was far better at aiding those who want to quit tobacco than patches or nicotine gums.

I can dig them up, of you can find them yourself...let me know.



I see my evidence-based arguments about the potential for smokeless tobacco as a harm reduction method are falling on willfully-deaf ears. Maybe a couple of your readers will learn something, even if you refuse to. Easy to spot such know-nothings by your references, repeatedly, to "spit" when I have noted that modern smokeless products are neither "chewed" nor "spit." Spittoons, really? Most quitters succeed unaided like your commenter--the patch helps so few. If ACSH were a wholly-owned subsidiary of some tobacco company, nothing that I have said would be untrue. I have offered to send you the literature, but you'd rather mindlessly toe the line.

Brainfan so inaptly nicknamed, you are an idiot, as the "toxic chemicals" you so fear have killed few since Bhopal, while the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke kill hundreds of thousands each year in our country alone, and are predicted to kill a billion people over this century, if current trends continue. But you keep railing about hypothetical toxins and "endocrine disrupters", while the cigarette makers rejoice in your distracting the public and the media from the real problem, as they did in the 1950s when the "cancer epidemic" was blamed on DDT. So, thanks to Rachel Carson and people like you, millions of African children die of malaria without it. Anyway, I am off this thread now, stew in your own juices.

We would all agree that you have a right to your opinions, Dr. Ross. I don't happen to agree, and some others don't, either. Best, Don Bauder

Brainfan so inaptly nicknamed, you are an idiot,

LOL...be careful, you might be msitaken for me!

You mean a multi-billionaire idiot, SP? Best, Don Bauder

It's not HIS opinion. It's the opinion of the Karolinska Institute, among others, that the evidence demonstrates the dramatic public health improvements Sweden has seen solely because smokers there replaced cigarettes with snus.


"Brainfan so inaptly nicknamed, you are an idiot,"

Here Ross shows his true colors. It didn't take long.

"as the "toxic chemicals" you so fear have killed few since Bhopal,"

First off, that is a blatant lie. People have been dying from toxins absorbed from the Persian Gulf War, the 911 clean-up, and the Corexit spraying in the Gulf, along with innumerable smaller scale exposures. Second, and if you were truly in a position to study health problems you would know this, fatalities are not the only measure of human harm. Many illnesses and deaths from chemicals have extremely long, insidious incubatory periods, but coming from an organization that still denies the dangers of Agent Orange, you wouldn't be interested in that.

"But you keep railing about hypothetical toxins and "endocrine disrupters","

"Hypothetical" toxins? These things are toxic on their own MSDS sheets. By their own design and admission, the airborne variations MUST be used in well-ventilated areas. Why? Because they are toxic. Your premature dismissal of endocrine disrupters is telling considering those of us who are most prone to harm from them.

"while the cigarette makers rejoice in your distracting the public and the media from the real problem,"

LOL. Like people don't know that cigarettes cause cancer, and I am responsible for that. Philip Morris take note: I'm serving the role of the American Council on Science and Health for you. Please forward large sums of money to me.

"as they did in the 1950s when the "cancer epidemic" was blamed on DDT."

Good grief, did you not grow up during this period? Did you not see the warnings about cigarette smoking? I know you did because your organization has learned from what is called "tobacco science", which is used to establish doubt about the irrefutable harm caused by products in order to keep the profits going for as many decades as possible, at the expense of millions of people's health.

"So, thanks to Rachel Carson and people like you, millions of African children die of malaria without it."

Um . . . the EPA banned DDT in AMERICA. The EPA has no jurisdiction elsewhere. It has continued to be used elsewhere. And as it happens, the inappropriate, profligate use of it has rendered it ineffective. Learn your propaganda if you must shill for poison.

"Anyway, I am off this thread now, stew in your own juices."

Another lie. I see you posted after this.

This has been a most informative colloquy, and I hope it continues. I find toxin risks as interesting as tobacco risks. Best, Don Bauder

The more a discussion delves into fact and information, the quicker Gilbert Ross will leave. Oh sure, he'll stick around to talk about his e-cigs, but when it comes to real information about chemicals and propaganda, or better yet, all of the chemicals that his organization has deemed safe over the years, he's outta here with brilliant repartee like "Brainfan, you're an idiot."

This is because Ross is accustomed to printing his piece and having it passed on without serious discussion, or more important, without the inquisitive treatment that should come with genuine reporting. This would include a look at just who these "experts" are and what information they include, and EXCLUDE. A "scientific" organization that cherry-picks information is an oxymoron.

A great example would be an article called "Nocebo Effect: Think Sick and You’ll Be Sick". It's not only a classic of cherry-picking, but it's amusing in the way they present its author, Jack Dini. This is his byline:

"Jack Dini is a scientist and science writer living in Livermore, CA."

The implication is that this "scientist" has a background in healthcare, as opposed to electroplating, which is his real background.

I don't agree with Gil Ross. I was 9 years old when I smoked my first cigarette. By the time I was in high school I was a pack-per-day smoker. I currently smoke more than that, I am 50 years old. There was one point in my life where I quit, I was around 30 years old. Six months later I had a particularly difficult day, if there would have been a gun handy I might have eaten a bullet. Instead, I started smoking again.

Gil Ross has one thing right: The best way to quit an addiction is to substitute something else in its place. What Gil Ross has wrong is that substituting another harmful addiction in its place is not a good substitution. I bought bags of lollypops when I quit. Every time I wanted a cigarette (which was constantly for the first week), I sucked on some candy. However, I point out to everyone that dentists would not recommend this. But it worked. And what Gil Ross is advocating would also work. It simply isn't healthy.

And for the record, I agree with Mark Kotsay. I do not need rules and regulations to save me from myself. Also know that there is no guarantee that one will get a cancer or some other disease from smoking or chewing tobacco. It greatly increases your odds, but otherwise it's still a crap shoot. Any honest doctor will tell you this, just as honest doctors have told me this. You quit tobacco mainly because it greatly increases the quality of your life. But banning tobacco is not going to help anyone other than a criminal element that will ensure its availability in spite of such rules and regulations.

Thanks for your insights. Of course it's best to quit cold turkey as you did, congrats! And as with you, most successful quitters do it unaided--BUT it takes 7,8,9 or more attempts over the years to do it! And much willpower and many relapses. Smokeless as a substitute/cessation aid is NO guarantee against relapse for sure, but it seems to work more reliably than the patches etc etc. And yes, other tobacco products e.g. snus are NOT "harmless"--but snus is 98% or 99% safer than smoking, is all I'm saying. Ideally no one would use any tobacco product! For those who are addicted to cigarettes--45 M of us--smokeless is a potential short-cut to quitting cigs. I smoked for a long time and quit in 1990, but I still remember the pleasure of smoking! That's a powerful addiction--and potential quitters need all the help they can get. gr

Happily, on one point we all agree: nobody should use any tobacco product. Best, Don Bauder

Obviously, the banning of alcohol (Prohibition) had very bad collateral consequences (escalation of organized crime.) The same could happen with an all-out ban of tobacco. For decades, there has been a lot of cigarette smuggling because of tax variations among states. Best, Don Bauder

Good take on the matter, Refried. In the EU, outside Scandinavia, just as you predict there is a grey-market already forming for snus.

Who buys it? People who are nicotine addicted but want to reduce the harm of smoking tobacco.

Yet the governments (outside Scandinavia) do their best to block this.

Hopefully the do-gooders won't prohibit snus in the USA, condemning many to pointless early deaths.

Refried, if you're still smoking, give the Swedish snus a try. (The American stuff is awful.) Get some sent to you online...I like General, personally...but you can try a variety pack. (Better than lung cancer, and goes with beer and coffee too.)

Good story...there was a 60 Minutes story on harm reduction was basically a commercial for snus and other nicotine delivery methods that don't involve lighting something ON FIRE and INHALING SMOKE. The chew debate is interesting...i guess at the end of the day, it's hard to find something that DOESN'T cause cancer.

Well, bobby, it's certainly hard to find something that doesn't produce some kind of unpleasant side effect -- cancer, obesity, whatever. Nicotine is a wicked addition, no matter how you take it into your system. Best, Don Bauder


It matters A LOT how you take it into your system.

"Wicked"? Being moralistic and judgemental, are we?

If you don't like tobacco in ANY form, fine...but don't condemn the rest of us for chosing a less harmful way to use nicotine.

Your alternative seems to be "quit or die".

No thanks. I can use nicotine and NOT die. That should make you happy, not angry.

Are spit and snus the harm reduction we've been waiting for?

  1. Spit ("smokeless") tobacco has 100 to 1,000 times more tobacco-specific carcinogens than any other consumer product intended for oral use:


Sure, it's less harmful than cigarettes -- but almost anything is less harmful than cigarettes. Fen-phen is less harmful than cigarettes.

  1. What's being peddled in the US as "snus" is not the same as Swedish snus:


Marlboro snus is not snus.

So the Swedish experience, however interesting, is not relevant.

  1. The elephant in the room is dual use. Spit and snus are a way to keep smokers smoking. Philip Morris explicitly markets its suck tobacco product for dual use:

Whenever smoking isn't an option, reach for Marlboro snus

Rides alongside your smokes: Marlboro snus

Made for smokers: Marlboro snus!

For Philip Morris, spit and snus are a way around smoking bans.

So spit and snus have potential to increase smoking, by undermining quitting.

These facts do not support the argument that snus and spit are the harm reduction we've been waiting for.

I agree, jpk, that one of the biggest dangers is chewing tobacco and cigarettes complementing each other -- when you can't smoke, chew. Dire combination. Best, Don Bauder

The answer is to encourage use of Swedish snus.

I've tried both (am I the only person commenting her who has direct experience in this matter?) and there's a big difference.

The American variety is a lot bigger package, and a LOT stronger taste...makes me gag compared to the Swedish snus.

Please don't conflate the two. The Swedish health benefits of harm reduction are irrefutable, and quite relevant.

Taking an absolutist approach to prohibiting all such products leads, frankly, to deaths that could be prevented. For those who cannot quit smoking, snus is a FAR preferable alternative and shouldn't be dismissed as just a cynical marketing ploy.

Look at the evidence, my friend, and I think you'll agree.



If the health benefits of snus for hard reduction are irrefutable, why do the major public health organizations disapprove it? Best, Don Bauder

What do you mean by "major"?

The EU has public health organizations who support harm reduction, and point to snus as a very good way to improve public health.

What you really mean is that when you interviewed the standard suspects they gave you the standard totalitarian line.

Did you bother to call anyone who actually studied snus? Someone in Sweden maybe?

Would you like their contact information? They speak fluent English, so you should have no trouble communicating with them...or read the research I've linked to below.

Don, this article does a disservice to the evidence.

You take apparatchiks' word as gospel, and conflate snus and chawin'backy:

"Unlike dipping tobacco and chew, most snus today does not undergo the fermentation process, but is instead steam-pasteurized. Although steam-pasteurization is remarkably complex, it has the advantages of inhibiting the formation of bacteria that facilitate the growth of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) while preserving the desired texture and mouthfeel of the snus." (source: wikipedia)

Mr. Ross needs a bit of help here, and I think you're doing a disservice both to harm reduction and snus as a tool for smoking replacement.

I've got the evidence, and will gladly answer your most pointed questions.



I guess my major question is how much nicotine gets into the system through use of snus. Best, Don Bauder

Does that even matter in the calculation of harm?

Nicotine itself isn't killing people. It's the other stuff...tar, smoke born carcinogens, and so on. That's deadly.

Are you saying that tar and other "stuff" do not get into the system with snus? Nobody says snus is absolutely safe; everybody hedges on that point, even Dr. Ross. There must be some risk. Best, Don Bauder

Yes, I'm telling you that tar and the other "stuff" does NOT get into your body when you use snus.

This has been studied extensively. Look at the evidence, PLEASE!!!

"Does that even matter in the calculation of harm?"

Aside from the fact that a nicotine addiction, one of the most addictive substances known to man, keeps one in NEED of using a delivery device of some sort, YES, it does in and of itself matter in the calculation of harm.

Brown Researchers Find New Dangers in Nicotine http://www.golocalprov.com/health/brown-researchers-find-new-dangers-in-nicotine/

And this. Yeah, it's wikipedia, but it lists its citations:

"While no epidemiological evidence supports that nicotine alone acts as a carcinogen in the formation of human cancer, research over the last decade has identified nicotine's carcinogenic potential in animal models and cell culture.[59] [60] Nicotine has been noted to directly cause cancer through a number of different mechanisms such as the activation of MAP Kinases.[61] Indirectly, nicotine increases cholinergic signalling (and adrenergic signalling in the case of colon cancer[62]), thereby impeding apoptosis (programmed cell death), promoting tumor growth, and activating growth factors and cellular mitogenic factors such as 5-LOX, and EGF. Nicotine also promotes cancer growth by stimulating angiogenesis and neovascularization.[63][64] In one study, nicotine administered to mice with tumors caused increases in tumor size (twofold increase), metastasis (nine-fold increase), and tumor recurrence (threefold increase).[65] Though the teratogenic properties of nicotine may or may not yet have been adequately researched, women who use nicotine gum and patches during the early stages of pregnancy face an increased risk of having babies with birth defects, according to a study of around 77,000 pregnant women in Denmark. The study found that women who use nicotine-replacement therapy in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy have a 60% greater risk of having babies with birth defects, compared to women who are non-smokers."

There is no debate that snus is less harmful than cigarettes. The tobacco in snus is steam pasteurized, not fermented like other spit tobacco products, including chewing tobacco. This process, developed in Sweden, kills the microbes that create some of the cancer-causing toxins found in other smokeless tobacco products. Snus also doesn’t have the dangerous combustion products that cigarettes do, and there is little to no risk of lung cancer. But this is not to say that snus is completely safe. The most common health effects of snus are white patches in the mouth, called leukoplakia, and gum recession. There are cancer risks as well. A recent study in The Lancet showed that long-term snus users in Sweden had twice the risk of pancreatic cancer of people who never used any tobacco product (smokers had the highest risk of all). The researchers did not find an increase in oral cancer among snus users, but many experts contend that it is nevertheless a risk. “The evidence [from our study] was clearly reassuring with regard to oral cancer, which was perhaps contrary to our prior expectations,” said Hans-Olov Adami, M.D., Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

(source: http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/99/18/1358.full)

Interesting longish article about the politics behind anti-snus efforts.

Seems there's a little self-interest on the health crusader's side as well, hmmm?

Yes, snus has risks, too. I believe even Dr. Ross conceded that. Pancreatic cancer is one of the worst kinds. I am not sure I understand the conflict of interest of the public health officials, unless they have invested in the anti-smoking gums and patches. Best, Don Bauder

Their interest is in maintaining their jobs and their self-image of ideological purity.

Harm reduction threatens that.

The best comparison is to drug warriors. They'd rather see a kid rotting in prison than getting high.

It's not logical. They're not really helping society. But try telling them that...

Since these organizations do endorse patches and gum, they have already compromised their purity, it seems. Best, Don Bauder

And a bit more, from the 2008 EU study on Swedish Snus:

The SCENIHR report implies that there is no longer a scientific basis for a continued ban of snus within the European Union because the committee unanimously says that (page references to the report within parentheses):

  • Swedish snus has dramatically less adverse health effects than cigarettes (p. 113-114)
  • A smoker who switches to snus substantially reduces his or her risk for tobacco-related disease (p. 115-117)
  • The availability of snus as a substitute for cigarettes has had positive effects on Swedish public health (p. 116-117)
  • Swedish data contradict the hypothesis that snus is a gateway to smoking (p. 108, 116, 121)

(source: http://www.swedishmatch.com/en/Media/Pressreleases/Press-releases/Other/EU-committee-confirms-health-benefits-of-Swedish-snus/)

But just like in the USA, the public-health "guardians" decided this was not acceptable, and the ignorant slobs must quit smoking or die...snus is not acceptable except in Scandinavia which got an exception from the EU rules.

Is snus readily available in the U.S.? Or do you have to purchase it under the table, so to speak? Best, Don Bauder

I looked snus up. Snus really looks nasty. I can't ever imagine kissing someone with a mouth full of that shit. Really gross.

Not many women use snus or spit tobacco, so you shouldn't have to kiss a female with that stuff in her mouth. But think of the young ladies with this dilemma: should she marry the baseball star destined to make $5 million a year in the big leagues, but chews tobacco? Tough decision. Best, Don Bauder

Snus is NOT spitting tobacco. Please stop confusing the two.

I looked snus up. Snus looks really nasty and I can't imagine why one would want to put that shit in their mouth. I can't imagine kissing anyone with a mouth full of that stuff. It's beyond gross.

I tried the stuff out of the can when I played ball, I didn't care for it at all. Didn't care for seeds, either, I just chewed a wad of gum, it was something I could live with swallowing if I got caught up in a dive or a slide. I used to fish a lot, and I chewed Beechnut when I fished, I liked that a lot but it wasn't something I could deal with behind the plate, lifting that mask just to spit wasn't something I wanted for. But none of it needs to be a substitute for cigarettes, I'm saying empirically that bags of jawbreakers work just as well and the only person you're going to piss off is your dentist.

Think about the poor janitor who has to clean the dugout each day -- sweeping up spit, seeds, other repugnant things that have been in the mouths of players. Then consider the guy who mows the ballpark grass; his mower runs into all that spit, which probably splashes into his face. Best, Don Bauder

Heh. Pretty sure the saliva is dry by then Don.

The saliva and tobacco might be dry the next day, but would cleaning it up be pleasant? Methinks not. Of course, there could be worse jobs: cleaning out the saloon spittoon each day, for example. Best, Don Bauder

Or being a the cleanup guy in a porno theater.

Or how about pivot boy in a circle j**k?

You've got me stumped with that pivot boy. I have no idea what that means. Best, Don Bauder

On old saying of my brothers. Explainingit would onlt dilute the humor, disgusting as it may be.

Let's not honor your brothers by explaining it. Best, Don Bauder

Confusing chawin'backy, which you spit, and snus which you do not, still shows that you haven't gotten the fundamental differences between the two products.

You didn't do much research for this article, did you?

If you had, you would not continue confusing these two things and basing your conclusions on this confusion.

I read about snus in preparing for the article. But you have to realize that snus use is not that widespread in the U.S. On baseball teams, on college campuses, and in high schools, the males are chewing old-style tobacco, for the most part. Best, Don Bauder

Refried...you have NOT tried snus, you tried chawin'backy.

There's a world of difference between the two.

So it seems I'm still the only person commenting here who has any direct experience at all with this stuff.

I know the difference, Fred, I simply commented on what my preference was.

I can identify one person who has no personal experience with the stuff: me. And I never will. Best, Don Bauder

Ignorance prevails here:

  1. Snus and Chawin'backy are NOT the same thing at all.
  2. Smoking kills
  3. Snus replaces smoking
  4. Snus, according to extensive studies in Sweden, dramatically improves public health.

You can attack Dr. Ross for saying the same thing, but it's still the truth.

If you're still confusing spitting tobacco with snus, you're not informed enough to have a valid opinion on the subject, and should really shut up about what you do not know.

I've done both, Fred. And I smoke, too. Not proud of any of it.

How about getting your nicotine by chewing on an unlit cigar all day? Plenty of people do it. Disgusting. Best, Don Bauder

nonononononono Don...mouth cancer doing that...snus 2 of course!!

True, Nan: snus has dangers. Best, Don Bauder

But even Dr. Ross admits there are risks with snus. Best, Don Bauder

J#sus C&RIST!!!! I have lost ALL HOPE that even some of the brightest people are incapable of discerning the most blatant and CRUCIAL distinctions that get in the way of their hang-ups!

NOBODY seems to actually be reading what Fred is actually saying, but insisting upon linking anything he says (QUITE CLEARLY!) to a LOGICAL train of thought. This is the WORST kind of INTELLECTUAL BLINDNESS I can imagine--and which I had not imagined until I read this thread. I am entering serious depression over this.

Luckily, I am not a nicotine addict, so the actual subject is of no personal relevance, but it is clear that the NET effects of one alternative (snus) over the other (costly health care, misery, and death rates) is a NO BRAINER!

Oh woe--woe, woe, WOE! There is no hope . . .

Twister, it's sort of like saying that methadone is an acceptable alternative to heroin. Ideally, both should be avoided.

That's an apt comparison, but your conclusion falls flat.

Sure, ideally we should all avoid everything that could possibly be bad for us. Period. Simple. End of discussion.

In the real world, however, we make trade-offs. We decide that it's preferable to have addicts on methadone than heroin. Smokers decide that it's better to use snus than to smoke tobacco.

Only hard-headed moralistic bullies insist on the "quit or die" paradigm promoted in these comments.

I'm sure these same people would tell an obese person that they have only two choices: die from diabetes or begin running a marathon RIGHT THIS MINUTE. I guess they'd potty train their children with similar ultimatums, condemning the child to death if they don't instantly begin using the toilet like an adult.

So when I read the ignorant comments here, completely missing the point, nattering on and on about how ANY tobacco use of ANY kind is ALWAYS evil and if you smoke you must quit or DIE. No other choice is ever offered.

Snus is not the same as chawin'backy, yet no one here seems to be willing to admit this simple (and obvious) fact. The way it's produced, used, and taken into the body is different, and the health effects are different.

Yet the ignorant and sanctimonious insist on conflating the two and then getting up on a high horse to condemn all uses regardless of the facts.

I'm quite disappointed that Don is engaging in this, as well as the strictly ad hominem attack on Dr. Ross. There's NO evidence cited that contradicts what he has to say. Only the unqualified OPINIONS of people who are committed anti-tobacco activists are quoted. I've cited real evidence, reviewed by independent scientists working in a country with a much better reputation for honesty than the USA.

Ideally this should never happen. But I'll still read Don Bauder's articles because on balance I really appreciate the information, and he's far better than other writers on these topics.

Ideally I shouldn't use snus or any other tobacco ever. But I'll still use snus because it's far better than smoking.

If I were as moralistic and narrow minded as this article, I would never read Don Bauder's articles again. But in the real world, we understand the failings of our fellow humans and keep focused on what's important...not what's morally "ideal".

I don't insist on anything. I smoke. I think you should have the right to smoke. Or even use heroin. Doesn't matter to me a lick what people choose to do. It does bother me to live in a World where people are offered the lesser of two evils. That's politics, I can't understand why you aren't drawing that comparison. If you want to use snus, use it because you want to use it, not because it's safer than inhaling smoke. What is morally ideal is that we are honest with ourselves. Then, we can be honest with each other.

Please, don't lapse into depression over this. We try to stimulate debate; we don't want to send anybody over the edge. Best, Don Bauder

Hi Twist...don't let them get to you. They probably mean well.

$hit! I know they MEAN well! That's EXACTLY my problem--the source of my despair. When some idiot doesn't get it, I, frankly, don' give a damn. But when people I consider to be superior intellects don't get it, I can only conclude there is no hope. When there's a whole g*damn ARMY of straw-men being thrown at logic and reason . . . Where the 'ell is David when you need 'im and 'is slingshot?


"Nine-tenths of the hell being raised in the world is well-intentioned." --Anon.

probably not Twister...the worse effect of nicotine however for those not in the know is on the circulatory system et all...not on the lungs

"We try to stimulate debate; we don't want to send anybody over the edge."

This from the guy who, in the post directly above the quote listed here, typed "That's snus to me."

LOL from the bottom of the ravine!!

Glad to see it's the ravine and not the latrine. Best, Don Bauder

As Oscar Wilde said, "We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." I suppose that laying in a latrine wouldn't allow you such a view, but a ravine sure would.

Regardless, as the Command Master Chief of Fighter Squadron 211 would say, "Well, if I'm laying in the stinking gutter, you can bet next month's pay check and your wife's fidelity that I'm either puking up whisky or looking up at the miniskirts walking by. Either way, be a good shipmate and make sure I get back on the damn boat."

For Twister:

If nine-tenths of the hell being raised in the world is well intentioned, does that mean that at least ten percent of the good done in the world is the result of evil intentions?


Gutturally said, Fred. Best, Don Bauder

If "evil intent" is congruent with error, there may be a good chance that William's crack is somewhere near on the money. But then that's a fractal view, eh?

Re: "If nine-tenths of the hell being raised in the world is well intentioned, does that mean that at least ten percent of the good done in the world is the result of evil intentions?"

PS: What really pisses me off about this new "look" is that the date/time has been removed from posts. And now that the blog and "stories" comments are amalgamated, and apparently there is no way to go back in time beyond what the system permits us to see, I can't keep up with the long strings as I could in the past.

And, whilst I'm griping, what's up with this washed out font that is harder of us old folks to read? I reckon the bottom-line will eventually tell.

Unfortunately, I don't know whom you should register your complaints with. I will find out Monday. Best, Don Bauder

You may also post them to our suggestion box:

WebAdmin once posted with a link to "Suggestion Box" (a blog format) in response to my complaints here. That has been removed, and it certainly is not featured for others to use. I posted some suggestions, but now I can't find it anywhere. I know only this--I find the site much more difficult to navigate, more time consuming, and generally less useful. While I realize that WebAdmin knows who I am, with the suggestion box I could use the Twister handle.

I am puzzled and discouraged where I was briefly encouraged by the initial responses. I can't figure the secrecy. Odd.

the link to the suggestion box is still there. It's in the reply to Don Bauder's comment right above. Or you can use the search box to find it and check Blog Entries under advanced options Or it's under the blog Website Feedback. Or if you click the Reader_Web_Admin link, you can see all the comments posted to admin. It's not really that hard to find if you look for it.

Not on my screen, it isn't. The message that once had the link is gone. I have tried to find it with no luck. I'm not talking about the link to email WebAdmin.

The comment I'm referring to Don Bauder;s that appears directly above your comment that begins with: "WebAdmin once posted with a link to "Suggestion Box" (a blog format) in response to my complaints here." Don's comment has 1 reply to it which is from admin: You may also post them to our suggestion box:

Suggestion Box I've found it using 3 different browsers.

Again, you are complaining to the wrong person. I am a Luddite and not permitted anywere near the tech side. Best, Don Bauder

The path of least resistance, perhaps?

Luddite? Literally or metaphorically?

Since I can't find the Suggestion Box blog anymore, my only recourse is to hope that the techs will respond as in the past. I, too, am a "Luddite," one of those whom the geeks love to scold, but not help. What other forum do you suggest I use?:

You are always welcome to email us directly with your concerns: [email protected] This is the most effective way to get our attention.

Otherwise the suggestion box can be found at any time by typing "suggestion box" into the search function: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs...

The black and blue format is an apt description of what the new website renders the reader.

I SAY, "Jolly GOOD!"

However, in actuality, I do like that part of the format. It's been standard for a long time. (See useit.com)

Log in to comment

Skip Ad

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader