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What is a Snus? Understanding Smokeless-Tobacco

Updated: Jan 11

You may have heard about Snus somewhere whilst some people even recommeding you try it or have seen individuals slide a tiny pouch under their lip. Well, we are here to answer all questions and topics surrounding Snus. From its origin, history, harmful effects to cultural siginficance and its health effects.

2. Is Snus legal? Safe? Healthy?

A can of snus


What is a Snus?

Snus is a type of smokeless tobacco that first originated in Sweden. It is a moist powder made of ground tobacco leaves mixed with water, salt and other flavourings, which is then packaged in these small, non-reusable teabag-like sachets or even in loose form in small cans or tubs. People consume it by placing it under their upper lip so it can diffuse into their bloodstream.

Snus is a type of smokeless tobacco that first originated in Sweden. It is a moist powder made of ground tobacco leaves mixed with water, salt and other flavourings, which is then packaged in these small, non-reusable teabag-like sachets or even in loose form in small cans or tubs. People consume it by placing it under their upper lip so it can diffuse into their bloodstream.

Unlike chewing tobacco or dip, which are also forms of smokeless tobacco, Snus does not require spitting. Snus sachets are small and easily fit in the mouth discreetly, making them very convenient. So, how exactly does Snus make you feel? Snus users report a slight tingling or burning sensation when using it, which they say is similar to using chewing tobacco. Snus comes in many different types and flavours, like mint, berry, and citrus, to name a few.

To really understand what Snus is, we should first know how it is made. Snus is a pasteurised product, bacteria-free. As it is virtually sterile, it has a long shelf life. In fact, in the freezer, it can last for as long as a year.


Is Snus legal? Safe? Healthy?

Snus manufacturing process

Snus has been used in Sweden and other Nordic countries for centuries, remains a part of their culture, and is deeply ingrained in Swedish society. Loads of people use it as an alternative to smoking (even footballers!), and some smokers even switch to Snus, a means of quitting smoking entirely.

Nonetheless, Snus is banned in the European Union, with the apparent exception of Sweden, and in many countries, as they are concerned about its health effects, even remarking that it is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Snus as a tobacco product and recommended its regulation to reduce its harmful effects.

There have been multitudes of research on Snus, and they show that snus use is associated with a lower risk of specific health problems compared to smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems. Due to this, experts have suggested that Snus can be used by smokers who are unable to unwilling to quit as a way to decrease harm

Snus may be a less harmful alternative than smoking, as evidence-based research has shown, but it also has to be noted that Snus comes with its health risks. Snus has been linked to an increased risk of oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, and, unsurprisingly, gum disease. Furthermore, the long-term effects of snus use are not fully understood yet but will be as there is still research to determine its safety. 

The addictive nature of nicotine is one of the primary concerns associated with snus use. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and quitting Snus can result in dependence and withdrawal symptoms. Even if users are aware of the potential health risks associated with Snus, this can make quitting difficult.

Another issue raised by snus use is the environmental impact. Snus production requires large amounts of water and energy, and snus packaging disposal can contribute to environmental pollution. Furthermore, tobacco plant cultivation can have negative ecological consequences such as soil erosion and water pollution.

Hence, it is imperative to comprehend that although Snus is safer than smoking, it is still fraught with harm. One could use Snus as a gradual process of smoking cessation, but Snus is still harmful, and users should aim at quitting it as well and switching to alternative nicotine solutions that are tobacco-free.


History of Snus

'Snus' is derived from the Swedish word 'snus', which means to sniff or snuff. The origins of Snus can be traced back to the 16th century when tobacco was first introduced to Sweden from North America. At the time, tobacco was usually smoked in pipes or cigars, and it was also sometimes chewed or sniffed, depending on who it was. The use of Snus as a form of tobacco consumption, around the 18th century, emerged later.

One of the theories about the origins of Snus suggests that it was developed as a way to make tobacco more palatable for Swedish workers who were required to take breaks from their work to smoke. By grinding the tobacco and adding salt and water, Snus was created as a more convenient and discreet way to consume smoking during the workday. Another theory suggests that Snus was initially used as a medicine, with some Swedish doctors prescribing it to treat ailments like toothaches and headaches.

Regardless of its origins, Snus quickly became popular in Sweden, especially among working-class men. By the 19th century, with the rise of industrialisation and coffee, Snus had become a cultural icon in Sweden, with songs (Dunder å snus by Eddie Meduza being a great example), poems, and literature celebrating its use. Snus was also a crucial part of Swedish political and social life, with political parties using it to rally supporters and promote their agendas.

In the 1700s, Snus became quite common, virtually a necessity, among men and women of the elite. The cans had to be pricey and handled with a controlled elegance because they were miniature works of art made of gold. It gained popularity very quickly as a gift, and the Swedish tobacco business saw success. Almost 70 Swedish municipalities were growing tobacco by the end of the 1700s, and Swedish smokers began using Snus, which was placed under the lip in a pinch. Several farmers who had tobacco plantations produced their Snus by grinding the tobacco in coffee grinders or mills they had built.

In the 19th century, producers started creating regional variants of moist Snus, with Ettan being the most popular brand. Tobacco was to be used as a source of funding for the Swedish government's military and the first pension reform in the early 1900s. The tobacco monopoly was reinstated in 1915.

During the 20th century, Snus faced several challenges, including increased cigarette competition and regulatory efforts to ban or restrict its use. In the early 20th century, Snus was the dominant form of tobacco use in Sweden, with cigarette smoking being relatively rare. However, as the popularity of cigarettes grew, snus use began to decline, especially among younger Swedes.

Snus consumption peaked in 1919 when Sweden had a population of 6 million people (7,000 tons, a consumption of 1.2 kg per capita). Snus experienced a setback that favoured other tobacco products in the late 1960s before regaining popularity. The product designers at Swedish Match came up with a whiskey-flavoured snus in 1973. It was packaged in portion bags that were similar to tea bags. With portion-packed Snus, the sales curves were upward-sloping. Between 1970 and 2004, the amount of wet snuff consumed per person continuously grew from 393g to 922g.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Sweden experienced a surge in public health concerns related to tobacco use, with smoking and lung cancer rates on the rise. As a result, the Swedish government took several steps to address these concerns, including launching public health campaigns and increasing taxes on tobacco products.

One of the most significant public health initiatives related to Snus was creating a system of quality standards for Snus production. In 1971, the Swedish government established the GothiaTek standard, which limits harmful chemicals in Snus and requires manufacturers to disclose information about their production processes. This standard helped improve the safety and quality of Snus and has contributed to the lower rates of tobacco-related diseases in Sweden compared to other countries.

Despite these efforts to regulate and improve the safety of Snus, the product faced continued challenges from anti-tobacco advocates and regulatory agencies. In the early 2000s, the European Union banned the sale of Snus in member countries, citing concerns about its health effects. However, Sweden was granted an exemption from the ban due to its unique cultural and historical ties to Snus.

In Sweden, where there are about one million snus users, 193 million snus cans (6,761 tons) were sold in 2003. Women make up about a fifth of snus drinkers, breaking down previously held gender barriers.

In recent years, Snus has grown in popularity in Sweden and other countries. In the United States, for example, Snus has gained a following among young adults and those looking for alternatives to smoking, such as Vapes and Nicotine pouches. Nicotine pouches are the best among the three as they are 100% tobacco-free. Vape and Snus both are in the same harmful category; some studies claim vape may be more dangerous than Snus as they involve the lungs and also may contain THC. The regulatory landscape, however, for Snus remains complex, with some countries banning its sale or heavily regulating its use.


Why is it important to know about Snus?

One might write an article on Snus for many reasons, including discussing its health effects, analysing its popularity and cultural significance, and examining the controversy surrounding its use and regulation. One of the primary reasons for this article about Snus is to educate the public about its health effects. While some studies have suggested that Snus is less harmful than smoking, it is still a form of tobacco and can have negative health consequences. For example, Snus has been linked to an increased risk of oral cancer and pancreatic cancer. Knowing about these health risks can help inform consumers about the potential dangers of using Snus and encourage them to make informed decisions about their tobacco use.

Another reason for this article about Snus is to examine its popularity and cultural significance. Snus has a long history and is deeply ingrained in the culture of Sweden. Writing about the cultural importance of Snus can help people understand its place in Swedish society and how it has evolved. Also, examining the popularity of Snus in other countries, such as the United States, can provide insight into the factors driving its use and the potential consequences for public health.

A third reason for this article about Snus is to analyse the controversy surrounding its use and regulation. In some countries or blocs of countries, such as the European Union, Snus is banned or heavily regulated due to concerns about its health effects. Reading about these regulatory debates can help people understand the diverse perspectives on Snus and the factors that influence policy decisions. Additionally, examining the tobacco industry's strategies to promote Snus and influence regulatory decisions can provide insight into corporate influence on public health policy.

Reading about Snus can also help to dispel common misconceptions and myths about the product. For example, some people believe that Snus is a safer alternative to smoking because it is smokeless. However, as mentioned earlier, Snus is still a form of tobacco and can have negative health consequences. Additionally, some people believe that Snus is a Swedish invention when, in fact, similar products have been used in other parts of the world for centuries.

We also discuss the different types of Snus: loose Snus, portion Snus, and white Snus. Snus's preparation method was also be described, including its ingredients, production process, and quality control. Even though it has been talked about already, we will be getting into more detail about the health effects of Snus, including its positive impact, how it is less harmful compared to smoking and perhaps even the possible benefits for oral health, the adverse effects will also be included, and how it increases the risk of oral cancer, possible cardiovascular effects and even the addiction potential of Snus.

Snus can only be discussed by discussing its regulation internationally and in different regions and even the differences between Snus and cigarettes.

The effectiveness of Snus as a harm reduction tool for smoking cessation and its potential risks and benefits will be discussed. 

It will only be an article about Snus if we mention the cultural aspects of Snus in detail, its popularity in Nordic countries, cultural traditions and customs when it comes to Snus, and even social aspects and current trends.

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