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Let’s talk about snus Posted by on May 25, 2010 in Culture

A friend of mine came back from her fist visit to Sweden the other day. Like all of us, she loved it (but of course!) and came back with a new found love for Kalles kaviar and 433 pictures of the archipelago, the castle, sea food and slightly sunburnt Swedes. But there was one picture that confused me slightly. In between  photos of blonde people and green islands was a picture of a dirty ashtray filled with snus. And, in a weird way it kind of made sense. Snus is as Swedish as  flatpack furnitures and Dala horses.

For those of you who have never come across snus, here’s a brief explanation: Snus is a moist powder tobacco product that originated in Sweden during the 19th century. It was similar to the dry snuff that people had inhaled through the nose for centuries in Europe, but the Swedish snus was placed under the upper lip and did not require spitting.  Today, almost 200 years later, Sweden and Norway are the prime consumers of this form of tobacco. In fact, the sale of snus is illegal anywhere else in the European Union. But Swedes, they love their snus!

Snus comes in two types. Loose snus or portion snus. Loose snus is the original form, a moist powder that you pack to a little spherical shape and place under your lip. Portion snus is pre-packed, like little tiny tea bags that you also place under your upper lip. It has a peculiar taste – you should NOT eat it thought!! – and stays there for as long as it releases nicotine and then you spit it out and throw it away. 

Around a million people in Sweden use snus (verb form: snusar)  every day. That’s 21 percent of the men four percent of the women and snus represents almost half of all the tobacco consumption in Sweden. This number has increased since 2005, when the smoking ban was introduced and nicotine lovers turned to snus instead of cigarettes. This also opened up the markets for new snus related ‘accessories’, such as ashtrays especially designed for snus and hundreds of new varieties and flavours hit the shelves, like cranberry snus, nicotine free snus and ‘girl snus’  with pink packages and smaller sized ‘tea bags’.  When I grew up, snus was considered ‘a man thing’ and you rarely came across girls with tobacco under her upper lip. Today, noone bats an eyelid if a girl snusar.

Of course, there’s several health risks with snus and of course  it is not great stuff your upper lip with tobacco and nicotine. Some people claim it is better for you than cigarettes since it doesn’t affect your lungs, while other say it’s far worse than smoking and as addictive as heroine. One good thing though is that it doesn’t affect your surroundings in the same way as passive smoking does, but apart from that, snus is bad and please do not try this at home after reading this!

But I am curious about what people around the world think of snus. Have you come across it? I know there are similar stuff for sale in USA, but is it common over there? Do you use it in the same way as we do? Anyone tried it and had the usual first time with snus-experience? Please share your snus stories if you have any!

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  1. Marta:

    Very interesting post! I’ve only seen snus once in Barcelona, but I was with Swedish students. As far as I know, I don’t think you can buy it here.

  2. Diane R. Johnson:

    Growing up in Chicago in the 50’s & 60’s, my grandpa Olson, and all of his brothers, used snus. All of the brothers had emigrated from Sweden in their youth. They all had empty coffee cans conveniently located near their favorite chairs, for occasional spitting.

    I never knew anyone else who used the snuff stuff.

  3. Carla:

    I have seen it here in the US, however, it doesn’t seem like something that is a widespread trend throughout the entire nation. Although, in some areas it is quite obviously more prominent then in others.

    For instance, living here in the city, I rarely notice it. When I lived in a country town setting however, I knew many people that used it.

  4. Carol Goller:

    Twenty years ago or so, an assistant pastor at my church took snuff. Whenever he went to a meeting, he carried an “empty” Coca Cola can with him. I’m sure there are still a number of people around who have a strange reaction to coke cans.

  5. Dario:

    Snus is an interesting phenomenon particularly because of the legal restrictions across Europe.

    I started to “study” it because I was curious to understand why Europe look at that with such suspicion and because I was interested in the habit itself (I’m a MD and abuse substances are quite interesting I think).

    No matter personal opinion (lots thinks it’s disgusting, I personally don’t understand why “sucking” a hidden bag should be worse that “sucking” an evident cigarette) and contrasting studies (some declares the virtual safety of snus, some others increase of cancer rate), there are no studies that can even put it in proximity of same level of danger of smoking.
    The reasons of this radical policy against snus in Europe is still unclear to me 🙂

  6. Julie:

    My boyfriend uses it and i HATE it.

  7. Letícia:

    Only now, seeing that picture of “Göteborgs Rapé” I realized that snus and rapé are the same thing! Rapé is how we call it in Portuguese, too. Inhaling it used to be a widespread habit here until the beginning of the last century – I think people found it pleasant to sneeze from that. Nowadays it’s pretty rare, but some elders (in my family at least – they live in a country town) still use it to alleviate sinus headaches and stuff like that.

  8. joselita isidro-bokelund:

    hi !!! hope you write more about prepositions.

  9. Luke (Sydney):

    Wouldn’t it be nice if someon comes up with an ad. that makes snusa sexier than smoking then everyone will be happy.

  10. carolina:

    First time I saw snus was last year… we were on hollidays with a group of swedish people. And we saw as men had little rond boxes, … and we thought it was very strange to see adult men with candys…. the boxes were like candy-boxes….
    Afterwards, speaking with the swedish men we knew that those boxes were tabac boxes: snus! 🙂
    Really, we laugh a lot about the confusion.
    I tried it, but I think it´s really nasty.
    (And I don´t like to see people with snus in the mouth…. it´s dirty! )

  11. drg:

    This type of tobacco is used a lot in the US. In Utah the state I live it is seen as a ‘cowboy’ thing.
    A lot of people use a brand called Copenhagen or Skoal (mint and other flavors). Women do not tend to use this, is is seen as a Man thing. I am not saying women don’t but that is just a view.
    most people who use Copenhagen or Skoal spit a lot..
    This type of tobacco can cause mouth cancer.

    now the brand names make more sense to me 🙂


  12. Rand Thomas Santor:

    i’ve heard of that stuff coming from Vermont, USA, but it sounds pretty terrable haha

  13. Rand Thomas Santor:


  14. Karen:

    Here in the USA, it is goes by several names, like snuff, dip, chew (even though there is a tobacco that is chewed and is different) and it is also different than snus because those who use it have to spit. It was introduced by Swedish immigrants in the 1800s. It is somewhat common among men, and particularly baseball players. My son was a baseball player for many years and almost all of the high school and college players and many pros use it, including the coaches. I think it is a nasty habit, especially when I find spit cans and bottles under his bed! And when he is using it in the house, I can smell it all over the place. Maybe snus is not as bad, since there is not spitting involved, but it can cause oral cancer and if you have ever seen pictures of that, you would not want to do it! And it is highly addictive and as hard to quit as smoking.

  15. SnusGuy:

    I have been Snusing for about a year now, and simply love it! Quitting smoking was much easier with Snus, and I have noticed my breathing has gotten much easier, and I have much more energy. I have yet to suffer from any negative consequences due to my Snus use, and according to most recent studies, it is unlikely that I ever will!

  16. jennie:

    Thank you ever so much for all your snus stories and inputs!! Really enjoyed reading them and learning more about snus around the world…
    I particularly find it funny that there’s an actual brand called “Skoal”. A piece of Sweden everywhere…

  17. chris:

    There is a funny site all about snus http://www.thisisswedishsnus.com with alot of facts about Snus, how it’s manufactured and alot of history i recommend to check it out! 🙂

  18. megga:

    I am a Norwegian boy, and use snus on regular basis. Its great. I love to feed snus to people that have never tryed it. Because of the nikotin in the snu, they often get dissy and puke! As you are saing in your arthicle;snus is banned in most of Europe, but thats because of how it would look outside if people threw their snus around…

  19. Dario:

    Tycker du inte att norrmän och svenskar spottar snus överallt utan det minsta bekymret?

  20. Chris Egan:

    First, from what I gather is that American smokeless tobacco or “dip” is a relative of snus and is an adapted recipe by Swedish immigrants. Now it is considered low class and I can see why, where I went to highschool quite a few kids used dip and the bathrooms would be covered in dip spit and loose dip and the sporadic empty can. kids would carry spit bottles (even in class) and leave them in the bathrooms too! now on to snus, I had seen it in the tobacconist I go to for my pipes and have been interested since it is right near the pipe tobacco in a mini fridge. flash to a few days ago a friend at the coffee shop down the street from the tobacconist has a can of generals white and I ask to see whats up with it, I give it a smell and at first I say yuck (it smells like pissed on earl grey tea) but I say the hell with it and try one. It “grows” on me slowly as im at the coffee shop and more when I get home to watch hockey since im dosing on nicotine while I watch the game. the next day I decide to get a bag of pipe tobacco and see the snus and get a container. im slowly liking snus more and more than cigarettes… this stuff seems a little addictive! ok, and I forgot, snus is spit free and has a spot in the top for used portions to be polite and has no effect on the people around me which is polite too!