Orange Fizz


Tobacco & Football – All You Need To Know

Football is a game of endurance and skill. A game of highs and lows, or big personalities and huge consequences.

From our the Syracuse Orange to the Buffalo Bills, players are eager to perform to their best abilities and maybe, one day, end up with a championship trophy or a Super Bowl ring. However, some of those same players believe they can do so while also smoking tobacco. Bills fans know all about smoker Percy Harvin, who would light up before games to cope with his anxiety disorder. Did you also know about Len Dawson, caught with a cigarette at halftime of Super Bowl IV? Or 49ers legend and two-time Super Bowl champion Hacksaw Reynolds, once spotted lying down on the bench smoking during a game? These characters might be legendary, but their smoking habits were not conducive to their performance. Who knows what 1974 MVP Ken Stabler might have achieved had he been able to go a day without lighting up?

Here’s why tobacco and football don’t go together and what you can do to combat your habit should you struggle to kick it into touch.

Impact on Athletic Performance

Tobacco use, particularly smoking, can have detrimental effects on the athletic performance of football players. The chemicals in tobacco smoke, such as nicotine and carbon monoxide, negatively affect your heart and breathing. Players need to be at their peak fitness not just during games but also practices and workouts. Smoking can lead to reduced lung function, decreased oxygen uptake, and compromised endurance, which can restrict their ability to hit the right levels in the hyper-competitive world of football. Perhaps in 1974, it was acceptable, but in 2023, you won’t make the cut if you’re lighting up.

Also, it is important to remember tobacco use can also affect players’ strength and recovery. The toxins in cigarettes can lead to increased fatigue, reduced muscle strength, and prolonged recovery times from injuries. Stabler, who won a Super Bowl in 1977, suffered knee injuries and had to convert from a scrambling quarterback to a dropback passer. Smoking can hinder a footballer’s ability to bounce back quickly – could Stabler have gone on for longer as a scrambling QB without tobacco?

Mental Focus and Decision-Making

Football is a sport that requires quick decision-making and sharp minds for the precise execution of strategies, and smoking can impede these cognitive functions. The chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can lead to reduced attention span, impaired concentration, and slower reaction times. That means players of all abilities could face problems maintaining focus on the field, analyzing opponents’ tactics, and making split-second decisions are crucial for success.

Furthermore, smoking can also affect players’ emotional well-being, leading to mood swings and increased anxiety. In the case of Harvin, lighting up tobacco before a game could have exacerbated his anxiety rather than battled it.

How To Quit

The smoking cessation industry is booming, and there are lots of options for players wanting to quit. The most popular are those in the field of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), which seek to give the body nicotine by a method other than the combustion of tobacco. They are designed to slowly wean a smoker from nicotine, with a view to being smoke-free.

Nicotine patches are one such product. They are small patches that stick to the skin, usually the upper arm. They release nicotine slowly over a period of time, up to 24 hours in some cases, and are very discreet. They’d suit a football player as they’d hide under the jersey, but the slow-release ones may be an issue in the shower room afterwards, especially those prone to slipping, such as Rite Aid products. Some, such as the NiQuitin Clear patch, are waterproof and would perhaps be more suitable.

Nicotine pouches are another option for football players. They’re a small pouch which sits between the gum and lip, releasing nicotine over a shorter period, usually up to 30 minutes. They come in a range of strengths, so heavy smokers can start with a higher dose, say 8mg, before reducing down. The popular On! nicotine pouches listed on Prilla come in a variety of flavors also, such as mint, cinnamon and even unflavored, ensuring they suit different tastes. They’d be suitable for a player wanting a hit of nicotine but also a pleasant flavor to enjoy while chasing that deep throw. There are other options – gums and lozenges are used orally but might not be suitable during a game.


Football is a great sport that we all love. If you want to play, whether at college or throwing a ball with a few friends, it is advantageous not to smoke. Hopefully, we’ve demonstrated not only why football players of all abilities should kick the habit but also how you can achieve it.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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