In recent times, there has been a reported rise of Premier League footballers using snus, a smokeless tobacco product, which has become a topic of concern and discussion. Top players such as Victor Lindelof and Jamie Vardy admitted using snus, whilst many others do so under the radar. If you’ve ever seen a footballer tuck something under his lip before going on the field, it could be snus. Lee Johnson, currently manager at Fleetwood Town, believes up to 40% of players could be using it, and it’s being viewed as a serious issue.
While it’s essential to note that not all footballers use snus, some do, and there are several reasons why they might be drawn to this habit. Here’s your guide to an epidemic you probably didn’t know was happening.
What is Snus?
Snus is a type of smokeless tobacco product that originated in Sweden. Unlike traditional chewing tobacco, snus is a moist, finely ground tobacco product that comes in small pouches. Users typically place these pouches between their upper lip and gum, where the nicotine is absorbed into the bloodstream. It is seen by many as an alternative to cigarettes but has become popular with footballers. Why do Premier League footballers use it?
Playing in the Premier League can be incredibly stressful. Top players face intense pressure from fans and media; that’s never been more obvious than with Harry Maguire. Maguire is constantly belittled and ridiculed after appearing for his club and country. Whilst there’s no evidence Maguire uses snus, it may provide a momentary sense of relaxation and stress relief for some players suffering the same pressure.
Premier League footballers are influenced by their peers – the culture of the dressing room is one of fitting in or standing out. If some players within a team or social circle use snus, it might encourage others to try it – indeed, Joey Barton, a former Premier League player now in charge at Bristol Rovers, commented on how there were 11 used pouches on the floor at his training ground on his first day at the club.
Some players believe it offers an element of performance enhancement; it is easy to perceive nicotine’s stimulating effects as enhancing concentration and alertness on the pitch. However, it’s essential to note that the use of nicotine in this manner is controversial and subject to various health and performance risks. It can also act as an appetite suppressant, although again, this is a perceived benefit rather than a scientific one. With today’s footballers under so much scrutiny, any little edge they can glean can be seen as a positive.
What are the drawbacks?
It’s crucial to emphasize that using snus is not without its consequences. Snus contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance, and that can lead to further nicotine misuse, perhaps even cigarettes. Snus users can become dependent on nicotine, making it difficult to quit. Indeed, the PFA suggested players are already receiving treatment for their addiction, which has led them to conduct a full review of its use.
Also, placing snus pouches in the mouth can cause various oral health problems, including gum recession, tooth decay, and gum disease. Also, whilst snus is less strongly associated with cancer compared to smoking, it is not completely risk-free; there is some evidence linking snus use to an increased risk of oral and pancreatic cancer.
Players using snus may also find some cardiovascular side effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. This can pose risks to individuals with underlying heart conditions or those at risk for heart disease. Aside from this, snus may also contribute to other health concerns, such as digestive problems, headaches, and potentially negative effects on mental health.
The tobacco-free alternative
The alternatives are other nicotine replacement therapies, NRTs, designed to help wean players from using snus. Snus contains tobacco, whilst the alternatives, such as nicotine patches and lozenges, do not. However, perhaps the most obvious alternative would be nicotine pouches.
They are a small pouch, just like snus, which fits between the lip and gum to release a nicotine hit, so they would be used in the same way. The major difference is pouches do not contain tobacco; the nicotine is extracted from the plant and then processed before being added to the pouch. There are several popular brands, such as On!, ZYN and Velo, all of which come in different flavours and strengths. It’s worth noting nicotine pouches are not without their drawbacks, just like snus. The side effects of ZYN nicotine pouches include hiccups, a sore mouth or an upset stomach. However, as they are tobacco-free, they are generally seen as a ‘better’ alternative to snus, especially as the differing strengths are aimed at reducing a person’s nicotine intake over time, with cessation the ultimate goal.
The other alternative is simply not to use snus, and with the Premier League becoming more aware of the problem, regulations are likely to change to ban their use. Snus us in the Premier League, and indeed across football, might be rife, but like many other issues within the game, the powers that be are moving, slowly but surely, to eradicate the issue.