David Preece: Stimulant is old snus – with no jacket required

Johan Mjallby (right, challenging Jermain Defoe) was a snus user during his playing days
Johan Mjallby (right, challenging Jermain Defoe) was a snus user during his playing days
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Snus has been in the news. If you aren’t aware of it, or didn’t see any of the manufactured hullabaloo over it, I’ll quickly fill you in.

Snus is a moist form of tobacco that you can get in either loose or in small tea-bag-like form – and you place it inside your mouth between your gums and upper lip to give you the same effect that smoking does.

The crux of the chat around it was of the “epidemic” rampaging among British footballers, who take this “stimulant” which is illegal to sell in EU countries except Sweden, where it is imported from.

The stimulant in question is plain old nicotine, which experts say “improves alertness, concentration, strength and power”. Who knew that smoking cigarettes made you Superman?

The sensationalised vocabulary used made it sound like that’s what it did anyway, almost like an 1950s cigarette advertising campaign.

If the article in question was supposed to warn us of the dangers of this rife drug use within the game. It didn’t do a very good job of it.

Regardless of the attempt to sex up snus and its now widespread use, it’s old news really.

It’s been used by footballers during the whole of my career.

True, it’s more prevalent now but ever since Scandinavian players came to British football en masse, I’ve been used to seeing footballers walking around looking like they’re wearing gum shields.

Google old pictures of Johan Mjallby when he was at Celtic and you’ll see his top lip pulled down over a big lump of snus. An old Aberdeen team-mate of mine, Norwegian striker Arild Stavrum, used it so often I sometimes didn’t recognise him if he didn’t have some in.

In Denmark, it seemed to be even more popular. The time between double training sessions for a small group of players there was spent using snus, sipping coffee and playing cards.

It was still a minority of the squad who took it, but it was always around and never frowned upon in the same way cigarettes and alcohol were for the simple reason it didn’t have a detrimental effect on your immediate performance or health.

Not that I’m saying snus is good for you, far from it, but in comparison it wasn’t seen as a problem.

Substantial use of snus has been linked with an increased risk of cancer of the mouth, but I don’t think it’s the reason it was banned in 1992.

If the risk of cancer from snus was enough to prohibit its use, then smoking would have been banned a long time ago.

Studies made by the World Health Organisation showed snus up as a tar-free, cheaper alternative to smoking, without the added passive dangers – you can see why governments and tobacco companies in danger of losing money would be against it.

Not that this is a cheerleader piece for the benefits of snus either, you understand.

Tobacco, in any form, has never been my thing, although, after reading about athletes wearing nicotine patches during training to help with their focus and concentration in games, I tried them for myself.

I was always looking for that one thing, that magic pill that would turn me into a human wall. Sadly, I confirm that I was still as bad as before I used the patches.

To be honest, the main reason I never bothered with snus was because it made me violently ill the first, and only, time I tried it.

After the last game of the season, whilst I was at Silkeborg, a few of us congregated at the apartment one of our three Icelandic lads lived in for a couple of beers.

Nothing too raucous. We sat and chatted, played some cards and then one of them took out his snus and offered me some.

Naturally, a few beers in, I stuck it under my lip and carried on with the card game.

I began to feel a bit light-headed and, all of a sudden, I became very hot.

Time to go home before the room starts spinning, I thought. It wasn’t yet, but it was in the post.

So I began looking for my jacket to leave, but, for the life of me, I couldn’t find it.

For half an hour, I searched around this tiny one-bedroomed apartment for my jacket without any success, so I said my goodbyes and left. Jacketless.

Whatever happened between leaving that apartment and the 50-yard walk to my own is beyond me, but I arrived home a mess.

In obvious distress at how hot I was becoming, I began stripping my clothes off as I walked through the front door and down the hallway to my bedroom.

Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been a problem.

Walking through your own home naked is a personal choice which you are entitled to do, but I’m not sure the house-full of guests my girlfriend had over would totally agree.

I just needed to sleep, though, so I lay myself down to get comfortable – which lasted all of 10 seconds as the urge to be violently sick arose within me.

Knowing I wouldn’t make it to the bathroom in time, I rushed over to the window after having the bright idea I could just vomit out of it, even though we were two floors up, and wouldn’t have to deal with cleaning it up.

The only snag in this cunning plan was that the window had somehow jammed shut and I proceeded to throw up over the inside of the window and all over the window sill.

Not my proudest moment.

I’m sure the look my girlfriend gave me as she walked in meant if I had been a puppy she would have rubbed my face in it, to make sure I didn’t do it again.

I didn’t need her to though. Snus and me were done.

So if you’re looking for an article to prevent anyone from using snus, don’t show them the sensationalised ‘epidemic’ one, make them read my account.

Because if there is one deterrent that will work and stop them taking it, it will be that of a 30-year-old man spending 30 minutes searching a one-bedroomed apartment for a denim jacket, when he wasn’t even wearing one when he came in.