Tony Gwynn dipped in his lower right cheek for more than 30 years, his family says, and he died from cancer of the right parotid salivary gland in 2014.
Now, the San Diego Padres legend’s widow and two children want to hold the tobacco industry responsible for his death.
Alicia Gwynn and her children, Tony Jr. and Anisha Gwynn-Jones, filed a lawsuit Monday at San Diego Superior Court seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages against eight defendants, including Altria Group Corp. and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. LLC.
Altria is the parent company of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., which produces Skoal and other smokeless tobacco products.
“The tobacco industry had a responsibility to disclose the risk they knew of to him,” lead attorney for the plaintiffs David S. Casey told the Associated Press. “They did not. At the time he made a choice with them — marketing to try tobacco at a time — it was not disclosed that it was dangerous.”
Altria spokesman Brian May told the Associated Press in an email that the company had no comment.
Gwynn started using dip as a freshman at San Diego State in 1977, according to the lawsuit, and used one and a half to two cans of the product every day until 2008. He had two operations before he was 54 for cancer in his right cheek, between August 2010 and February 2012.
Also named as defendants are two people who ran an intramural softball team called “Skoal Brothers,” which the lawsuit says provided free smokeless tobacco products.
According to the lawsuit, “defendants continued to deluge Tony during his college years with countless free samples of ‘dip’ tobacco products they purposely adulterated to make more addictive. All the while, they did not mention either the highly addictive nature of their products or their toxicity.”
It added: “Once Defendants got Tony addicted to their products, he became a self-described ‘tobacco junkie’ who used 1 1/2 to 2 cans or tins of Defendants’ Skoal per day,” the lawsuit states. “Sadly, the nicotine in the tobacco ultimately caused Tony’s cancer and killed him.”