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Family of Late Baseball Superstar Gwynn Sues Tobacco Giant

FILE - Former San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn holds his Hall of Fame plaque following his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, July 29, 2007.

The family of the late Major League Baseball superstar Tony Gwynn is suing tobacco giant Altria, alleging the company enticed him into taking up the dip tobacco habit, causing the cancer that killed him at age 54.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Superior Court in San Diego, California, alleges negligence, product liability and fraud for selling a product Altria knew was dangerous and failing to warn users.

Dip tobacco is generally sold in a small pouch or can and is held in the mouth between the lip and gum. Many users believe it is a harmless alternative to smoking.

Gwynn was given free samples of dip while attending San Diego State University. His family said he became addicted, using as many as two cans of Skoal brand tobacco a day while playing professional baseball with the San Diego Padres.

Gwynn's daughter, Anisha Gwynn-Jones, said the tobacco industry used her famous father as a "walking billboard" for its product.

The Gwynn family said he frequently fell asleep with a chew of Skoal stuck in his mouth, developing salivary gland cancer. He died in 2014.

Altria has not commented on the lawsuit.

Several cities with Major League Baseball teams, including Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, have outlawed the use of smokeless tobacco inside ballparks, including its use by players.