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Football players have found a completely legal (in England) alternative to alcohol and cigarettes. But is it safe?

Bertrand Traore did not play in the February match of the 24th round of the Premier League, in which Aston Villa lost to Arsenal 2-4. The winger sat on the bench but became a social media star when he famously threw snus under his lip behind Unai Emery. This moment was broadcast. The same thing happened to Newcastle reserve goalkeeper Mark Gillespie last year.

Earlier, Jamie Vardy was caught with snus pucks at an England training session. Repeatedly, cans of tobacco flashed in different frames with the participation of Marcus Rashford. And the Swedes Victor Lindelöf and Emil Kraft generally admit to using it - it is logical because Sweden has become the birthplace of a product that worries all English football. In Russia, by the way, the leading ambassador of snus was the Swede Pontus Wernbloom, who once took a picture of a refrigerator full of tobacco.

The product has become an integral part of English club life that the PFA officially launched a snus awareness campaign. There are no immediate bans yet. Although in the UK and EU countries, the sale of tobacco in bags has been banned since 1992 (except for Sweden). But the use is not limited in any way. As well as selling cheap analogs of snus - bags soaked in nicotine. WADA recently also drew attention to snus but put it on the "watch list." Therefore, the question of use is still purely personal. If you want, drop it. If you don'tdon't like it, don'tdon't throw it. As The Athletic found out, many people in England want it.

Why is snus harmful?

The massive popularity of snus among athletes is due to the lack of direct lung damage. Unlike cigarettes, whose smoke and tar hit the respiratory organs, snus is used only for contact with the oral mucosa. Nicotine through the sachet is quickly absorbed into the blood - a person receives a "hit" of the substance, and dopamine is produced. This hormone, like cigarettes, forms a stable psychological dependence. Snus corrodes the oral mucosa, and doctors discuss the potential risk of developing cardiovascular and oncological diseases.

The Athletic, in a large-scale material, explored the issue of the popularity of snus and methods of dealing with it. Journalist Daniel Taylor uncovered the whole world of ''kid'', which has already become part of the culture of British football.

Lee Johnson, the current manager of the Scottish side of Hibernian, admits: "35 to 40% of British footballers sit on snus. The number may be even higher. This is a slightly taboo topic; it is not customary to discuss it. But this is already a cultural phenomenon. Young guys do not realize the threat to health and psyche in the long run. We need to talk to them."
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If Newcastle, in the story with Gillespie a year ago, brushed off journalists in the spirit of "this is a personal matter for the player," Johnson speaks openly about the need to fight Swedish tobacco. "Well, imagine, I go to training and smoke half a pack of cigarettes in front of everyone. Is it professional, or is it sporty? Hardly. It'sIt's the same with snus – the body gets the same amount of nicotine."

According to The Athletic, one young football player from the Second League sought help from oncologists due to a tumor in the oral mucosa. The direct relationship between snus use and cancer development has not been fully explored. But Swedish doctors and scientists in the 2000s concluded that those who sit on tobacco in bags are more likely to catch a tumor in their mouth.

What do the players themselves, hooked on snus, say?

They tried to ban snus in one of the clubs (the name is not mentioned for obvious reasons). Until they realized it was useless - even on the bus on the way to the match, the players and coaches threw tobacco. The team doctor (who wished to remain anonymous) laments: "I can't stand this habit among the guys. Every year we remind ourselves that it is harmful. But quitting snus is a lot harder than you might think."

Jamie Vardy wrote in his autobiography that Swedish tobacco is prevalent among the players - as mentioned above, the Leicester forward himself lit up. In 2018, Vardy admitted that he was in tears.

One former Premier League footballer, who spoke anonymously, told The Athletic that he is well aware of the harmfulness of the habit. "I was 18 years old when I tried it for the first time. I was in Manchester, where I crossed paths with some familiar guys from the national team. We went to a nightclub. They took out snus and said, "Check it out, man." At first, it brings pleasure and calms the nerves, but over time, the effect disappears, and the usual dependence arises. How many times have I tried to quit - it didn'tdidn't work. It'sIt's like with cigarettes. People leave but then start again. However, everyone knows that there is cancer. That there are problems with the heart.

The PFA is concerned about the massive rise in snus popularity among club academy players. Teenagers and young men buy tobacco from older comrades. There is an alternative - nicotine sachets are available for sale. One pack of 20 bags costs £5, much cheaper than the expensive Swedish original. Surprisingly, according to English law, nicotine-soaked sachets can be sold to persons under 18.

Lee Johnson says: "The young guys look to the best players in the club. They score a lot, drive the best cars, and make much money. These are idols. And these idols put two or three bags under their lips. The youth are just leading by example." In Hibernian, Johnson waged a whole war against snus. "Once I just told the players - everyone who uses snus will leave the club in the winter," recalls the coach. Doctors and physiotherapists helped those who had difficulty quitting. The players were shown presentations with slides with the words "You are snubbed. You lose".

"One guy had this. After the operation, he recovered in the hospital and climbed the walls without snus. He was desperate, begging the doctors to buy a couple of jars. As a result, his girlfriend secretly passed the snus. Doctors were arguing because nicotine could have a negative effect in combination with strong painkillers, " Johnson continues.

But the Swedes chuckle at the anxiety of the British. Newcastle defender Emil Kraft takes it easy on snus: "Absolutely normal thing in Sweden. I don't see anything strange or disturbing in this." Victor Lindelöf somehow hosted an atmospheric morning still life - a cup of coffee on the table next to a can of his favorite tobacco. According to Eurobarometer, in 2021, the number of Swedes smoking was just under 5% of the total population. This is mainly due to the alternative in the form of snus.

The Athletic also mentions how Henrik Larsson threw snus before the penalty shootout with Romania in the 1/4 finals of the 1994 World Cup. "I just needed to calm down a bit," the Swede admitted 20 years later. Zlatan Ibrahimovic also dabbles in tobacco - last year, he threw off a bag right before going on as a substitute in one of the matches for Milan.

Why is snus so popular?

Experts see this as a manifestation of the so-called " light rebellion." They say that football players should not smoke and drink alcohol in large quantities, so they use a compromise option to replenish the body with a shock dose of dopamine quickly. From the hands does not smell of sour smoke, from clothes, too. Snus is an element of the "starter kit" for a footballer in England. If the players had hidden their love for Swedish tobacco earlier, there would have been whole boxes with colorful pucks in the locker rooms. There are many ridiculous tales and stories associated with snus.

For example, Manchester United players sent masseur Rod Thornley to the hospital with poisoning - someone jokingly put a bag of snus in his sandwich. There is also a story about an unnamed goalkeeper from a top Premier League club who always keeps a stash of tobacco outside the goal during matches.

The PFA plans to conduct a snus awareness campaign in three phases. Doctors and experts will be involved in this.