What is Snus? A Guide to Snus and Snus Effects
What is Snus? A Quick Overview
Before we go deeper into the world of snus, let's give a clear answer the question: "What is snus?"
In essence, snus is a smokeless tobacco product that originated in Sweden and has since gained global popularity, including in the UK. It's made from moist, finely ground tobacco, which can be used loose or packed into small pouches (snus pouches are definitely now the more popular choice, as they are less messy). Snus is used by placing it under the upper lip, allowing the flavours and nicotine to be released and absorbed through the mouth's lining. This provides a convenient, smoke-free alternative to classic tobacco product: snus gives the tobacco experience without the need for spitting or inhaling smoke. Snus is available in a variety of formats, flavours, and strengths - with plenty of variations to choose from and many brands available.
The History of Snus
Snus has a complex history in the UK. It was introduced in the late 19th century by Swedish immigrants but remained relatively unknown until the late 20th century. However, since 1992, the sale of tobacco snus has been banned across the European Union (including the UK).
Nicotine pouches (tobacco-free snus) was introduced to the UK market in 2019. These offered adult consumers in the UK a product that has the same experience as tobacco snus, but without the tobacco. It has been estimated that 1 in 400 adults in the UK use nicotine pouches, but this number has been rapidly growing year over year.
What is a Snus Portion Made Of? The Types and Ingredients in Snus
There are different types of snus, each offering its own unique characteristics by how it is made as well as flavours and portion sizes, so there are many options to choose from. Let's explore the main types of snus:
|Loose Swedish Snus
|All White Snus
|Finely ground tobacco in pre-portioned teabag-like pouches
|Finely ground tobacco in loose form
|Nicotine without the tobacco that comes in pre-portioned teabag-like pouches
|Small, pre-portioned pouches
|Customizable portions (as you make your own)
|Small, pre-portioned pouches
|Focus more on tobacco flavour, with some flavourings added in certain
|Focus more on tobacco flavour, with some flavourings added in some products
|The flavours you taste are added extra. The pouch without the flavours will just have the flavours from the ingredients used.
|Moist or Dry?
|Varies from brand to brand
|Available in the UK?
Portioned Swedish Snus Ingredients
Loose Swedish Snus Ingredients
Loose snus is similar to portioned snus in terms of ingredients, but it doesn't come in pre-packaged pouches. Instead, you take a pinch of the product and place it under your upper lip. The main ingredients are the same as in portioned snus: tobacco, water, salt, and flavorings. The tobacco in loose snus is often more coarsely ground than in portioned snus, which can lead to a stronger flavor and a longer-lasting experience.
All White Snus Ingredients
What is Snus Used For?
In the UK, despite the EU ban on snus sales, there's a growing interest in snus and similar products like nicotine pouches. This has been driven by a broader trend towards finding harm-reduction alternatives to smoking. Many UK consumers import snus for personal use when they come back from a trip to the Nordics or turn to nicotine pouches, which are legal and offer a similar experience. The use of snus and nicotine pouches in the UK reflects a shift towards people looking for safer alternatives to traditional tobacco products.
How Does Snus Work?
Snus, whether it is tobacco snus or tobacco-free snus, is consumed orally. You place the pouch in your mouth between the gum and lip where the pouch comes in contact with the mucous lining of your mouth - which is how the nicotine enters your system. The buccal mucosa absorbs the “free” or unbound nicotine - the higher the pH of the pouch, the more “free” nicotine available in the pouch (however, it is the maximum pH value should be 9.1 based on our Northerner standards). This process is known as oral absorption, the nicotine reaches your brain after doing a lap of the body in your bloodstream. The nicotine causes the brain to release adrenaline and dopamine, which is what gives that feeling of pleasure and energy. This is probably part of the reason for its growing popularity among football players and other athletes in recent years.
Snus Effects: How Snus Impacts the Body
However, the tobacco snus and nicotine pouches effects on the body have been shown to be minimal in recent research. In a study on the short-term effects of snus on metabolism and hormones when eating a meal. The study by Dr Nyström (Professor of Internal Medicine at Linköping University, Sweden) shows that nicotine caused a slight rise in blood pressure and that the body’s cortisol rose in the short term, but that the metabolism and appetite-regulating hormones were unchanged.
Snus Effects Timeline
When you take a nicotine or snus pouch, the timeline it impacts you on can vary based on factors like body mass, metabolism, and how often and how long you use the pouch for. However, an approximate timeline of “how long the snus effects last?” can look like:
- Immediate - 10 minutes: The nicotine in the pouch starts to be absorbed through the mucous membrane in the mouth into the bloodstream. This results in an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
- 10 - 20 minutes: The nicotine reaches the brain, which stimulates the release of various neurotransmitters including dopamine (the neurotransmitter that creates feelings of pleasure and relaxation).
- 30 - 40 minutes: The peak levels of nicotine in the bloodstream are usually reached around this time, depending on individual metabolism and the specific strength of the nicotine pouch used.
- 2 - 3 hours: The half-life of nicotine in the body is about two hours. This means that after about two to three hours, the concentration of nicotine in the bloodstream has dropped by half. As the nicotine levels decrease, a person may start to experience cravings or withdrawal symptoms, leading to the desire for another pouch.
- 8 - 10 hours: Most of the nicotine and its metabolites (the substances nicotine is broken down into) should be cleared from the body through the kidneys. However, for regular pouch users, nicotine and its metabolites can accumulate in the body and may take longer to be completely removed from the body.
Snus Side Effects
As with all products, there can be some health implications and potential side effects to using snus and nicotine pouches.
Nicotine products can have several side effects due to their stimulating properties and addictive nature. Here are some potential side effects and why they occur:
- Addiction: Snus contains nicotine, which is an addictive substance.
- Increased Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: Nicotine stimulates the release of adrenaline, which increases heart rate, tightens blood vessels and raises blood pressure. Over time, this could potentially increase the risk of heart disease.
- Gastrointestinal Problems: Some people may experience upset stomach, heartburn, or nausea from using snus, especially when first starting or when using a high-nicotine product.
- Oral Health Issues: Regular use of snus can lead to oral health issues such as gum recession, tooth discoloration (if it contains tobacco), and in some cases, oral lesions. Because snus used orally, it's in direct contact with the gums and teeth, potentially leading to these problems long term.
- Insomnia and Sleep Disturbances: Nicotine is a stimulant, and using snus can lead to difficulty sleeping, or even insomnia.
- Decreased Appetite: Nicotine can suppress appetite, which is why some people may use tobacco products for weight control. However, this is not a healthy or sustainable way to manage weight.
- Withdrawal Symptoms: If you are a regular user and are trying to quit or cut back on snus, there is a chance you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, and difficulty concentrating.
However, there has been research that also shows there are some positive side effects to nicotine. In the research, they found that nicotine can help with:
- Enhancing Attention and Focus: Nicotine improves attention and task performance, with effects seemingly greater than those induced by coffee. It has been shown to enhance different aspects of cognition and hearing.
- Reducing Body Weight and Appetite and Increasing Metabolic Rate: Nicotine increases metabolic rate and reduces body weight. Studies show that nicotine use leads to higher energy expenditure, with enhanced effects when combined with caffeine. Nicotine can also suppress appetite, and nicotine replacement therapy can help limit weight gain after smoking cessation.
- Potential Effects on Psychiatric Illnesses and Dementia: Nicotine may decrease depression symptoms and improve REM sleep time. It has been found to have long-term antidepressant efficacy comparable to the antidepressant fluoxetine. In studies on ADHD, nicotine reduced symptoms and negative moods. It has also shown potential benefits in age-related conditions like Alzheimer's dementia, Mild Cognitive Impairment, and Age Associated Memory Impairment.
As with all things in life, even though nicotine can offer several potential benefits, overusing products containing nicotine can have negative side effects. Moderation is key- make sure you know your personal limits.
Snus and Athletic Performance: Why is Snus in Sports So Popular?
Recently there has been a rise in the use of snus by professional athletes, especially among football players and ice hockey pros, with an estimated 1 in 4 professional athletes using oral nicotine products. The FA have sort of dodged the question by stating they warn players of the dangers of using drugs, but are monitoring the World Anti-doping Agency’s stance on the matter of snus. The World Anit-Doping Agency's (WADA) report “Effects of Snus Administration on Sport Performance” from 2015 clearly states that nicotine is not banned in competition and that it gives no unfair advantages when it comes to performance. Nicotine is still on their monitoring list in 2022, however there is no ban against it.
The WADA conducted a 3 year-long study on 18 people to create the report. The objective was to determine if snus increased stamina, in order to conclude if it should be banned in sport competitions or not. The following tests were performed:
- Evaluation on overall fitness
- The effect of snus during exercise from 80% exertion to total exhaustion
- The effect of snus during high intensity short interval exercise.
The results in 2015 showed that the test subjects lowered their performance by 13.1% on average when exercising without snus. Meaning they needed the snus to maintain a nicotine level that allowed them to perform on an individually regular level.
However, in research on Archers, they found the opposite. Nicotine enhanced the performance of archery athletes as it increased their cognitive function and stimulated the sympathetic adrenergic system. It also found that the archery scores of the archers were significantly increased after nicotine supplementation.
Whether you decide to use nicotine in sports or not, there can be some change in performance due to nicotine - for better or worse.
Snus in the UK: Where to Buy and Laws
Snus Facts vs Fiction
Snus is a Drug
Tobacco-Free Snus is More Harmful than Cigarettes
It's important to note that, of course, complete abstinence from all tobacco and nicotine products is the best path to improved health. However, for those unable to quit, choosing to not use combustible products (such as cigarettes) is also a good step toward reducing the rates of those suffering from a disease or medical condition caused by smoking.
Recently, in the Nicotine Report 2023 (done in collaboration with Haypp UK) research found that well over half of all consumers (57%) state smoking cessation as the explicit reason why they started using nicotine pouches - which is the most common reason given by users for why they started using nicotine pouches.
Nicotine Pouches Cost More than Cigarettes
The prices of cigarettes in UK is the second highest of all the European countries, and the prices continue to keep rising - meaning it costs thousands of pounds per year if you smoke 20 cigarettes a day (the UK average). But the costs of smoking are also added to our NHS bill: research by ASH found that the NHS spends an additional £2.4bn and a further £1.2bn in social care costs because of smoking-related health issues.
Harm Reduction Alternatives Can Benefit Society
Numerous studies have shown that adult smokers can successfully quit cigarettes and improve their health by switching to less harmful nicotine products. This can be seen in the low lung cancer rates Sweden has, which has received considerable attention with the OECD’s latest Country Cancer Profile showing that Sweden’s lung cancer rate (7 percent) is half the EU average (14 percent). Due to the prevalence of Swedish snus for adult smokers, Sweden has the lowest number of smoking-attributable lung cancer deaths in Europe.