Four in ten college baseball players surveyed say they chew tobacco, but even a higher education hasn't taught the boys of summer about the dangers of the practice, a researcher says.

"We thought today's college baseball players might be more educated and well aware of the negative effects of tobacco chewing. We were a little surprised by our findings," says Robert A. Bagramian, a professor of dentistry and of dental public health at the University of Michigan.The study showed that 40.5 percent of the 74 players surveyed at three large midwestern universities reported chewing tobacco, some up to five times a day.

Chewing tobacco is believed to cause oral cancer, tooth abrasion, gum disease, discolored teeth and bad breath. Because chewable tobacco releases nicotine into the bloodstream at a steadier pace than cigarettes, it is more addictive than cigarette tobacco, Bagramian said.

"Most of the players didn't think it was bad for their health, although they knew it gave them bad breath," Bagramian said. "But they were interested in having their mouths looked at once we told them it might cause a problem."

Of the 74 players surveyed, 60 had a history of tobacco chewing and 30 said they still chewed on a regular basis.

Bagramian said the study isn't definitive because the sample was too small, but added that is indicative of the extent of tobacco chewing among college baseball players.

About 12 million Americans use smokeless tobacco, Bagramian said.