Snus - How a Unique Swedish Product Became International

Snus is a moist form of snuff that can be purchased either loose or in portions. Users tend to place it under their top lips and leave it there for 20 minutes – allowing the nicotine to be absorbed into their bloodstream. The main aspects that differentiate snus and snuff is the lack of spitting required when using snus, and the fact that snus is steam-pasteurized and moist.


The History of Snus

Snus originated in Sweden in the early 18th century and was mainly consumed by the aristocracy – made fashionable by the French queen Catherine de Medici (as France was the main trendsetter of the time). In fact, most European nobles would not be caught dead without their favorite, ornate snus box at hand. After the French revolution, snus quickly lost favor among nobles and almost disappeared from polite society. Napoleon was an avid snus user, and brought it back briefly; however, his downfall and reputation soon cast a dark shadow over snus. It would have been seen as politically incorrect to enjoy some snus in polite society at the time.


Although snus never truly disappeared from Sweden (it is as Swedish as meatballs and Ikea), it only made a proper comeback in Europe and America in the 1960s, when people began searching for smokeless ways to enjoy their tobacco. Before the 1970s, snus was only sold in its loose form, and thus users were required to “bake” snus on their own – “baking” snus involves taking a pinch from the can and rolling it into the perfect ball between two fingers. This ball is then placed under the lip very discreetly. However, in the 1970s, portioned snus was introduced to the market – meaning more convenience and even more discretion.


Snus Reaches America

When one million Swedish immigrants traveled to America between 1846 and 1930, they made sure to pack their snus along with them. These Swedes tended to settle into Swedish/American districts, which quickly became known as ‘snus boulevards’. To the Americans, snus was synonymous with Swedes. They had their own chewing tobacco which, although similar to snus, was not moist and kept under the lip. So, although snus may not have been an immediate market success, it slowly gained some traction over time as it integrated into the American way of life.


Since the 1960s, the consumption of smokeless tobacco products has only continued to increase, making snus an important contender on the tobacco market. The EU officially banned snus in 1992. However, with more and more Swedes enjoying expat lives in cities such as London, snus has become a far more common sight in major European cities.