Bosses in England have revealed they face a bizarre crisis because footballers have been reduced to “zombies” by nicotine pouches, with an addiction expert describing “gut-wrenching” withdrawals and sleep-deprived “torture”.
Snus is a smokeless Scandinavian tobacco substance which has enjoyed increased popularity in the British game over the past decade.
Coming in a little teabag-like pouch, users put it under their top lip and receive an instant high.
Despite being banned in Britain and across the EU since 1992, it is still sold in Sweden while easy to purchase on the internet.
With neither its possession nor consumption is illegal in the UK, snus is enjoyed by high-profile players such as Premier League hotshot Jamie Vardy, the Leicester legend who was captured chewing pouches while with England at Euro 2016 and has admitted to use in his autobiography.
“It’s the devil of football,” said one lower league manager, speaking to The Sun while revealing that a player contracted gum cancer from snus.
“It’s pretty much part of the footballer’s starter pack: three haircuts a week, a washbag and a pack of snus. I think some use it because they get anxious before games and it acts as a bit of a calmer. But you’re then going into games not at the peak state in terms of performance.
“Some are having to play and train with these [pouches] in, just to get by. Last year, muscle injuries were up and generally that was put down to Covid and the games being, on average, every 3.2 days.
“But I believe probably half were down to snus. I don’t think it’s just your muscles, I think it’s your ligaments, your tendons. It’s just putting poison into your body.
“We’ve got a real problem with it in our club. It’s rife throughout the senior team and youngsters.”
An experienced League One player told the outlet that they had “seen people re-use [a pouch] that has been in other people’s mouths because they’re like, ‘I haven’t got any, let me have one.’
“I know some players who are like, ‘I need to stop, I’m addicted,'” they confided. “And then someone opens a pot and they are like zombies.”
An addiction therapist claimed to have helped 15 players break their addiction, with the wife of one troubled star getting in touch to contract his services.
“The lack of sleep is how it tortures people. You will not get deep sleep because you’re buzzing,” they commented.
“That will start impairing your nervous system and you’ll find injuries are very hard to heal. Withdrawal is gut-wrenching so you’ll take more. It’s a vicious circle.”
Despite its apparently worrying grip on footballers, snus is still yet to be outlawed in the game.
Speaking ahead of the 2018 Russia World Cup, unconventional Vardy said he had stopped using snus “when it started to be plastered all over the papers”, adding that he had made his decision because the media “made a big deal about it”.
“They made a big thing of it – don’t know why,” he said at the time. “There’s nothing wrong with them. “I decided myself. I thought, ‘I don’t need the hassle and we’re here to concentrate on England.’
“Even if you don’t look at the papers, someone’s going to mention it when your picture’s in the paper. You end up finding out, so what’s the point? Leave yourself to concentrate on football.”