Family wants tobacco industry held accountable for Tony Gwynn’s death

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SAN DIEGO -- The adult children of former Padre Tony Gwynn said Tuesday they filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court so that the tobacco industry would be held accountable for the death of their father and others.

Tony Gwynn used smokeless tobacco for 31 years, and admitted his addiction when he tried to stop. He had multiple surgeries on his neck to remove an abscess and a tumor and died from salivary gland cancer in 2014 at the age of 54.

Anisha Gwynn-Jones said her father wouldn't want to see any other person or player get sick and die from using smokeless tobacco.

“Throughout his career, our dad was proud of his work helping kids and being a positive role model to his fans,'' she said. “But the whole time, the tobacco companies were using his addiction to turn him into their ultimate walking billboard. He never knew it, but they were using him to promote their `dip' to the next generation of kids and fans who idolized him, and who he was out there working to help.''

Tony Gwynn Jr. said his father would be relieved to know that his death was a catalyst for getting “dip'' out of baseball.

“Our dad was an elite athlete who didn't drink or smoke because he cared about his health and performance,'' his son told reporters. “If he had known how addictive and harmful to his health `dip' was, he would not have started using it in college, become addicted, and died so young.''

The suit -- which seeks unspecified damages against Altria Group Inc., formerly Philip Morris -- alleges the tobacco industry induced Gwynn to begin using smokeless tobacco in the late 1970s when he was a star at San Diego State University.

The company has not commented on the lawsuit, which was filed Monday.

According to the lawsuit, Gwynn went through as many as two cans of smokeless tobacco per day, which is equivalent to smoking four or five packs of cigarettes daily.