Sunderland manager Lee Johnson has been speaking in relation to his thoughts on how addictive substances are being used and abused by not only his players but across the English Football League and in Europe.

Originally coming from Sweden, ‘Snus’ is an oral tobacco product which is similar to the packaging used when distributing teabag’s. It is made from pulverised or ground leaves and is directly consumed by placing the substance under the top lip in one’s mouth.

Johnson spoke how the highly addictive nature of snus is comparable to smoking four or five cigarettes a day.

Snus is not currently considered an illegal substance, however the UK and European Union banned the ability to sell the substance back in 1992. Sweden remain one country whereby it is still legal to sell and distribute the commodity.

The matter of consuming the substance is harmful and impacts individuals at the professional level of sport, Johnson continued by expressing how it can affect both a players’ physical health and mental well-being.

“I have not tried it myself, but having spoken to the players, the worry for me is it is so highly addictive,” Johnson told 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.”

Sport is considered to be problematic when considering addictive behaviours due to the competitive mindset that it fosters amongst those competing for places within a team environment, or individuals trying to gain an advantage to better those they are competing against.

The use of ‘Snus’ is considered as well as the impact of hidden addictive behaviours such as gambling and gaming within our ‘Introduction to Sports Psychotherapy’ online course. More on the matters Lee Johnson has spoken about with regards to ‘Snus’ and how it’s consumption can have implications on his players can be found within Module 4, available now for pre-order (Released October 29th).

‘Snus’ – Distributed similarly to tea-bag packaging.

Although it may seem that this immediate high combined with a lasting calming effect for a performance enhancing composed feeling in-game. The medical findings make for grim reading.

The use of snus has been associated with adverse health outcomes such as obesity (Norberg et al., 2006), the development of type 2-diabetes (Carlsson et al., 2017), experiences of heart failure after pro-longed use (Arefalk et al., 2012), and oesophageal and rectal cancer (Araghi et al., 2017).

“You are messing with the balance of the body and mind, that is the biggest thing for me in terms of development. 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.

(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.

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.”

Education on the impact substances and addictive behaviours can have within sport is crucial to not only professional sportsmen and women across a variety of sports, but also the next generation coming through Football academies, Dance academies and individuals involved in sport through academia.

Ensuring that individuals are aware of the negative impact that substance abuse in the form of legal high’s such as ‘Snus’ can have on an individual’s physical and mental health is the best way to ensure use of highly addictive and destructive legal substances is reduced and eventually eradicated from the world of sport.


  • Araghi, M., Galanti, M. R., Lundberg, M., Liu, Z., Ye, W., Lager, A., … & Magnusson, C. (2017). Smokeless tobacco (snus) use and colorectal cancer incidence and survival: Results from nine pooled cohorts. Scandinavian journal of public health, 45(8), 741-748.
  • Arefalk, G., Hergens, M. P., Ingelsson, E., Ärnlöv, J., Michaelsson, K., Lind, L., … & Sundström, J. (2012). Smokeless tobacco (snus) and risk of heart failure: results from two Swedish cohorts. European journal of preventive cardiology, 19(5), 1120-1127.
  • Carlsson, S., Andersson, T., Araghi, M., Galanti, R., Lager, A., Lundberg, M., … & Magnusson, C. (2017). Smokeless tobacco (snus) is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes: results from five pooled cohorts. Journal of internal medicine, 281(4), 398-406.
  • Norberg, M., Stenlund, H., Lindahl, B., Boman, K., & Weinehall, L. (2006). Contribution of Swedish moist snuff to the metabolic syndrome: a wolf in sheep’s clothing?. Scandinavian journal of public health, 34(6), 576-583.