So, what is snus you may wonder? To answer that we have to go back to the time of the great explorers hundreds of years ago and the discovery of the tobacco plant.
The first European that came in contact with tobacco was Christopher Columbus when he 1492 reached the West Indies and the island of Haiti. The natives where greeting him with dried tobacco leaves as he got ashore. They where believed to be very precious by the natives.
Coming to Europe
In the mid 16th century Spanish and Portuguese sailors brought tobacco plants back to Europe. In Lisbon the plant was used for medical uses and many doctors grew their own tobacco for medical use. Among other illnesses it was used as a cure for cancer and syphilis.
The French ambassador in Lisbon, Jean Nicot, had a great influence to make the snuff use a fashion amongst the upper class in France in the 16th century, the French queen was one user. The powdered snuff tobacco was inhaled through the nose.
Jean Nicot, or his name, also influenced the Swedish botanist Carl von Linné who used his name when he gave the tobacco plant its Latin name, Nicotina tabacum.
What is snus tobacco?
In the beginning of the 17th century the use of snuff spread to Sweden. The first known document mentioning snus is dated 1637 and states that snus had been brought to Sweden from Borgå in Finland.
The Swedish tobacco industry
And as with snuff in France, the use of snus became fashion amongst the upper classes and men as well as women used it. Snus cans where a valuable symbol of elegance and status. They where often made of precious metals such as gold and silver.
The use of snus in Sweden lead to a high demand for tobacco which lead to the establishment
of many tobacco plantations in Skåne, in the south of Sweden, by the end of the 17th century. They were established in as many as 70 Swedish towns and was the start of the Swedish tobacco industry. The father of potatoe, Jonas Alströmer, owned a tobacco plantation of considerable size.
The lower classes
When snus spread to the lower classes, farmers and other manual workers found inhaling snuff difficult while working. In stead of inhaling it they began to put snus under their upper lip. By doing so they where freeing up both hands for labor. Soon more consumers where following suit, grinding their own snus in coffee grinders or other home-made grinders.
Swedish snus manufacturers
In the 19th century manufacturers began to produce local brands of moist snus. Brands still popular today, General, Röda Lacket and Ljunglöfs Ettan (number one) was introduced. Jacob Fredrik Junglöf started in 1822 and became one of Europe’s leading snus manufacturer.
Many manufacturers at that time offered snus of different quality, ranging from No 1 to No 3, representing different quality. Ljunglöfs trademark No 1, Ettan, quickly became a nation wide success as a high quality product. Ettan is still today one of the most popular brands in Sweden, currently number two only surpassed by General as the most popular brand.
Going to America
Snus was introduced in America by the over one million Swedes that immigrated to USA between 1846 and 1930. They brought their tradition with them and snus was one of them. The use of snus was so common in many districts that often the main street was called Snus Boulevard.
Fun fact: The founder of the Greyhound Bus Lines Inc, Carl Eric Wickman, emigrated from Sweden to USA in 1904 and started the company in 1914.
What is snus in Sweden today?
In Sweden snus is listed as a food product, and as such has to follow the food regulations. As a result of that all the ingredients have to be listed on the can.
Swedish moist snus was Banned in EU July 1992. But on entrance in the European Union Sweden got an exception from the rule due to the long tradition.
Today it is used almost exclusively in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and USA. But you can find it in Faroe Island and South Africa and it’s also tested on new markets in other countries such as Canada.
It is considered as a healthier alternative to tobacco smoking and as a result many smokers has switched from smoking cigarettes to snus.
What is snus made of?
If you want to make snus you need air dried tobacco, often a mild Virginia-type tobacco. When the tobacco leaves are completely dry and any hard veins removed, you can grind them to produce tobacco flour. You can use a food blender or a coffee blender. But if you are serious about snus making you can buy an electric or manual stone grain mill.
The strength and flavor of the result depends on he type of tobacco you use. You can find a wide variety of tobacco, some are mild and good for snus while others are to strong and bitter.
- Virginia – A popular aromatic snus tobacco, it’s sweet and medium strong.
- Burley – If you want a strong, dark, bitter and chocolaty tobacco.
- Dark cigar tobacco – gives a very strong and bitter flavor.
- Rustica – Light flavor but high in nicotine. This is a wild tobacco type that is easy to grow.
- Turkish – Low on nicotine light flavored, not suitable for snus.
Fresh water without chlorine that can produce a bad taste. Clean spring water or bottled water is preferred if you have chlorine in you tap water.
Sea salt without iodine or other additives. Avoid regular table salt which often has additives.
Sodium carbonate or potassium carbonate. This is a food additive used to increase the pH to reduce the acidity. You can make your own from regular baking soda
This is optional, but there is a wide range of different flavor essences you can use. The most popular snus in Sweden, General, is flavored with Bergamott, a citrus flavor. The flavor is added after the baking is done. Pepper, cinnamon, salmiak and liquorice root can also be used as well as many spirits.
Commonly used flavors are smoke, Bergamot (Citrus ×limon Bergamia, the flavor in original General snus), juniper berry, herbs and floral flavors. But there is a wide range of flavors to choose from. Some of them are eucalyptus, whiskey, rom, cognac, salmiak, punch, bergamott & rose-oil, juniper berry & almond, wintergreen (popular in USA), black currant, mint.
This makes the loose snus holding together better. Optional.
Help to preserve the moist content in the snus. Optional
After mixing tobacco flour, water, salt and sodium carbonate (also called potash, pot ash, potassium sorbate or perl ash) the mixture is baked for two to six days depending on the baking temperature. When the mixture turns from brown to dark brown / black it is ready for the final step in the process, flavoring and aging.
Let it mature
To allow for the reaction with the sodium carbonate and flavors the snus has to age and mature for a week or two in a fridge or other cool place. After that the snus is ready for consumption.
Click the link for a detailed description on how to make Swedish snus.
What is snus and how do you use it?
Traditionally the loose pinch of snus (pris or prilla in Swedish) is placed under the upper lip on either left or right side of the lip. After some time, depending on the type, the tobacco juice releases its nicotine and flavors. The mucous membrane absorbs free nicotine through the blood. In contrast to smoking the nicotine intake from snus can go on for many hours for each prilla.
What is snus pouches?
Originally only loose snus where available, but now it is also available in pre-packed small sachets, like a small teabag, also called a Smurf Diaper. The pre-packed variant has become popular among girls and smokers as a smoking cessation. The term Smurf Diaper was coined by hard core loose snusers soon after the introduction of snus portions. Maybe because it looks like a small used diaper.
Now empty portions are available for people who make their own snus at home. It come as a paper tube from which you cut it to the length you desire. The you either just fold the ends or seal them with a curling iron or other heat source.
What is snus health issues?
Some studies have found a statistically significant increase of oral and pharyngeal cancer among daily users. While other studies do not confirm any correlation between snus and cancer, but suggest a probable risk of pancreatic cancer as a result of use. Due to the lack of conclusive evidence, the warning label changed from “Snus can cause cancer” to “Snus is addictive” a couple of years ago. If you are a smoker with a nicotine habit, snus is a much healthier alternative to smoking. There is no lack of evidence regarding the health issues you get from smoking.
But if you are not addicted to nicotine don’t start. You are better off without the addiction, it is very hard to quit once you are hooked. But compared to smoking it is a healthier alternative.
So, is your curiosity for snus cured? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions, and let me know what your experience of Swedish snus is.