One in five professional footballers using snus or tobacco-free nicotine pouches, says study

Around one in five professional football players currently use snus, tobacco-free nicotine pouches or both, according to a study.

The research, covering both male and female players, said the actual number was likely to be higher as some may not want to admit using them.

Snus, pronounced 'snoose', is a smokeless, moist tobacco pouch that's put under the top lip.

Its supporters say it can help people quit smoking, but it still contains high levels of nicotine and evidence suggests a higher risk of oesophagus and pancreatic cancer - as well as cardiovascular disease.

There's also evidence of a link to mouth lesions and oral cancers.

Snus is legal for adult use in the UK, but illegal to buy or sell so users often source it from abroad.

It is often confused with nicotine patches, but the main difference is that snus contains tobacco.

Eighteen percent of the 628 male players surveyed - from the Premier League or EFL clubs - said they were using snus or nicotine pouches.

Twenty-two percent of the 51 Women's Super League players questioned were also users.

Better mental readiness was given as a key perceived benefit by 29% of men and 55% of women players.

Relaxation benefits after a game or training were quoted by 41% of male players and 64% of female footballers.

Leicester striker Jamie Vardy admitted using snus in his autobiography to help him "chill out" and was pictured carrying it at Euro 2016.

He later said he had stopped following negative media coverage.

In 2021, then Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson likened snus use to smoking three or four cigarettes at once and said he had players who were "highly addicted".

The Loughborough University report also found the pouches were being used as an appetite suppressant, while many players said they started using to fit in with teammates.

"I have quit twice for eight months but always seem to start doing it again. (I) find it hard to quit when I'm around it all day," one player told researchers.

'It's just everywhere I look'

One club staff member said a player, who had played mainly in the Premier League and Championship, had told them: "I'd love to come off it, but I can't. It's just everywhere I look.

"Every other player's taking it, (I) go to fill my car up and it's at the pump stands. It's just too easy."

About half of the male players told researchers they wanted to quit, but most of the women players didn't plan to give up.

Users reported suffering symptoms of nicotine dependence when they stopped using, including irritability, anxiety and cravings.

The study, commissioned by the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), said club bans hadn't deterred players.

It recommends they should be offered personalised, external support - and shouldn't be stigmatised for asking for help.

Report author Dr Daniel Read said: "One of the stories that comes out is the regret of players starting (to use snus), not recognising how addictive these products are and then the difficulty they have had quitting."

He called for players to be more honest about their experience of using it, "because at the moment all they see is, 'Oh, so and so in the first team is using it, so it must be doing something good'".