Sean Marsee was an Oklahoma teenager born in 1965 who was considered an outstanding athlete. Marsee won 28 track medals in the 400 meter relay while running the anchor leg. His classmates honored him with a walnut plaque. Marsee started using chewing tobacco at age 12, after getting a can of free Copenhagen chewing tobacco at a rodeo. He became a regular user and five years after starting his use, he contracted oral cancer. After a ten month battle with rapidly spreading cancer that started on his tongue, Sean Marsee died at age 19, in 1985.
After his death in 1986, his mother, Betty Ann Marsee, sued the United States Tobacco Company, seeking $147 million because of the failure of the company to warn consumers about snuff's possible health hazards, despite its knowledge of links between an ingredient in snuff and cancer. She also requested $10 million for pain and suffering, and $58,000 for medical and funeral expenses for her son.
The jury ruled in a 6-0 verdict that U.S. Tobacco had no liability for Sean Marsee's death, on the grounds of insufficient proof. The case was Marsee v. United States Tobacco Company, Civ. 84-2777R (W.D. Okla.).
Photos of Sean before and after his illness have been widely circulated and illustrate the devastation caused by oral cancer from smokeless tobacco.
- Marsee v. United States Tobacco Co. (case description)
- Betty Ann Marsee
- Health claims/health reassurance
- Inquiries about Smokeless Tobacco
- Oral Cancer Foundation Website on Sean Marsee with before and after photos
- U.S. Tobacco Wins Suit Over Liability on Snuff June 21, 1986, New York Times