Until yesterday, Gascoigne's habit, now believed to be up to 20-a-day, had not attracted the attention of those other vices which earned him notoriety in the past such as wife-beating and excessive drinking.
Yesterday, however, Glenn Hoddle, the England coach, confirmed Gascoigne's nicotine habit. He said it was a private matter and that making Gascoigne give up for the tournament might have an adverse effect.
The response brought an angry reaction from anti- smoking groups. Smoking may help Gascoigne's battle to keep his weight down but few habits could be as harmful to his long-term fitness.
Gascoigne has long been indulged as a special talent but Hoddle suggested he may be losing patience when he said this week: "He is not out of the woods yet."
Clive Bates, the group director of the anti-smoking organisation Ash, criticised Gascoigne. "Gascoigne has basically given the green light to kids who'll say `If Gazza smokes, it's all right for me.'"
Gascoigne is following a long tradition of outstanding footballers who smoked, most of them in the days before the extent of its dangers was known. Of England's 1966 World Cup-winners, Bobby Moore, Jack and Bobby Charlton and Nobby Stiles all liked a puff, while Ray Wilson smoked a pipe.
Smokers' XI: Felix (Brazil), Moore (England), J Charlton (England), Wilson (England), R Charlton (England), Socrates (Brazil), Ardiles (Argentina), Gerson (Brazil), Cruyff (Holland), Law (Scotland), Ginola (France).Reuse content