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Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson has warned against the use of snus in football, which he likened to smoking three or four cigarettes at once.
Snus is a smokeless oral tobacco product originating in Sweden made from ground or pulverised leaves, packaged similar to a teabag sachet which is placed under the top lip.
While possession and use of snus is not illegal, since 1992 it has been banned from sale in the UK and European Union, apart from in Sweden, under current regulations. This position, though, could be reconsidered by the Government.
Smokeless tobacco such as chewing tobacco, paan and snuff are not safe alternatives to smoking cigarettes. It doesn’t matter whether you smoke, inhale or chew tobacco – all forms are addictive and can cause cancer. More info here: https://t.co/YOWA8iRgrL #WorldNoTobaccoDay pic.twitter.com/iMgm6HsVjX
— Cancer Research UK (@CR_UK) May 31, 2021
Even with no smoke inhaled, Johnson maintains the impact can be just as detrimental on both a player’s physical health and mental well-being.
“It gives you that sort of buzz. I have not tried it myself, but having spoken to the players, the worry for me is it is so highly addictive,” Johnson said on talkSPORT.
“I have had players who are so highly addicted that they are in hospital overnight with something else, maybe an operation, and are begging the doctors and nurses to get them a tub – or otherwise they say they are going to run out of bed and get (it) themselves when they have just had a knee operation.
“It is so highly addictive that it comes to the forefront of our minds which then becomes dangerous.”
"I still use snus. All the Swedish boys used it when I played and that's how I started. It's just an addictive thing. I wouldn't ban it."
— Training Ground Guru (@ground_guru) October 6, 2021
Johnson, who started his playing career at Brighton before lengthy spells at Yeovil and Bristol City, is concerned about what the lasting impact of repeated snus use could be.
“You are messing with the balance of the body and mind, that is the biggest thing for me in terms of development,” he said.
“You will find that some players have two or three snus sachets under their lip, but then they are taking caffeine tablets, so it is giving themselves that calming effect.
“They are then going into a game trying to lift themselves and are therefore taking caffeine tablets or Red Bull to try to get the boost.
“(With) so many spikes in the body, sort of balance if you like, I don’t believe it is conducive to top performance, but more important it is not conducive to the player being healthy for a long period of time.
“It is nicotine going into the body and an awful lot of it.
“I see how many players are actually on it – you could probably go to maybe a third or half of a dressing room. I think they are uneducated on the negatives towards it.
“I have seen it when I was playing myself, and I have seen the effect it had in both performance and also health of the players I have played with.
“It is almost part of the footballer’s starter pack now – it is the washbag, the little tubs of snus.
“Sometimes players can have three or four under their top lip at one time and it is effectively the equivalent of smoking three or four cigarettes at one time.”
Smoking rates are at record low levels in the UK, with an ambition set to make England smoke-free by 2030.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said in a statement to the PA news agency: “The sale of oral tobacco is currently banned in the UK under existing regulations.
“We are undertaking a review of the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016 and aim to publish a response later this year.”
This year marks Stoptober’s 10 year anniversary.
It’s never too late to quit #smoking & notice immediate improvements to your health.
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) October 4, 2021
Public Health England has estimated that e-cigarettes are at least 95 per cent less harmful than smoking, while investigations into the impact of snus continue.
Dr Rachel Orritt, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, told PA: “Snus contains tobacco – the part of cigarettes that causes cancer – although levels of some of the harmful chemicals are lower in snus.
“The jury’s still out on the link between snus and cancer and it hasn’t been studied as much as some other types of tobacco.
“It’s illegal to buy and sell in the UK. But, because snus is addictive, you can get support to stop using it from your GP. This goes for other types of tobacco too, whether they are smoked or not.”