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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!