Hey! I have this wad of steam-pasteurized tobacco for you, and it’s even conveniently packaged in some sort of pouch! Just stick it between your upper lip and gum on either side of your mouth and let the sweet tobacco goodness seep into your blood. No spitting, no chewing. It might burn a little or make you want to throw up at first, but just ride it out… you’ll love it!
You’re sold already, right? That’s what I thought.
So have you heard about snus yet? If not, you heard it here first: that stuff is NASTY! And once you start, you will never ever ever stop.
In case you haven’t heard of snus yet (rhymes with moose, deuce, noose), it’s a Swedish tobacco product that is banned throughout Europe and is on its way to my home country, the United States, in a bid to expand the market. Whether you come to Sweden as an expat or have the opportunity to witness some snus use on your own turf, you have a lot to look forward to, including but not limited to the following experiences:
→ when you have parties, you’ll find these soggy nasty pouches all over your kitchen and on your front stoop, and you’ll have to pick them up one way or another;
→ when you have picnics you’ll have to nudge the decomposing pouches out of the grass you’re sitting in, and there will be more than you can reasonably deal with, and no one will have brought hand sensitizer;
→ when you get close to a Swede, there’s a definite possibility of kissing someone with a snus pouch in, which I have not done and so cannot comment on, but if kissing a smoker is like licking an ashtray my guess is that kissing a snus-er is quite similar. And that’s not appealing.
Actually, when you think about it, snus being so popular makes it the world a lot like the olden days when everyone smoked cigarettes, minus the secondhand smoke and the possibility of having your building set on fire by a little old lady who falls asleep in an adjacent apartment with her death stick still lit. And minus the annoyance of having your coat smell nasty every single time you go to a bar regardless of whether you smoked or not.
As far as I’m concerned, this snus thing is the one weakness in the average Swedish male. Seriously. Generally speaking, Swedish men are fit, stylish dressers, and feminists. (Hotttt.) But then there’s this pouch of nicotine-laced tobacco nastiness stuck in their lips, and as far as I can tell, it’s 50/50 whether the guy will be snusing or not (statistically speaking, it’s more like 20% of Swedish men who snus, but I’m going to go with my gut over “scientific data” on this one).
General brand Swedish snus, part of the Swedish Match company’s stable of brands. Photo courtesy of Swedish Match.
So what is it? It’s not snuff, it’s not chewing tobacco, and it’s not dip. It is tobacco, but in Sweden it’s regulated as a food product, so it’s not much more than that: tobacco, water, salt. Because of the method by which it is processed, it has far fewer carcinogens than cigarettes or chewing tobacco, is far less likely to result in cancer than smoking, and has little if any effect on bystanders as opposed to secondhand smoke. And then it has a big nicotine hit on top of all that, making it just as addictive as cigarettes if not more.
(I’m just going to take a minute here to rant: of course the SWEDES find a way to make even their bad habits look good in comparison with the rest of the world. Seriously, you guys. What is up with that? How do you do it?)
As for myself, I really do not get the appeal. There was recently an article in Gawker about snus, and one commenter described it as “a tea bag of tobacco that you brew in your mouth;” another wrote that it’s like “a tobacco tampon.” Appetizing. Luckily for me, I’m not in Sweden right now, so I’m totally excusing myself from trying it by pretending that Swedish snus is not readily available to me. (It isn’t in my parents’ house; therefore, it was not readily available to me.) Frankly, I have absolutely no interest in sticking that stuff in my mouth. Instead, I asked one of my friends to shed some light on the experience.
In Adam’s words…
The taste is “a bit like smoke-flavored wet piss,” although in his opinion, it smells a lot better than that.
Adam said that in a nutshell, the best thing about snus is the feeling. “The joy of taking a snus after not having been able to is far greater than that of a well-needed cigarette.”
The snus(kig) future.
“I would never in my life quit, mostly because I can’t! You can compare it to a serious narcotic addiction without the hallucinations. I kind of wish I had never started, but now that I’m hooked, I don’t want to be without it. One of the times I tried to quit, my girlfriend actually ORDERED me to start again because I was becoming such a horrible person to live with.”
Word to the wise: just say no. Sure it’s less harmful than a cigarette, yes you get the same nicotine hit you so desperately crave. But for all you non-Swedes, stay away while you still can! Imagine the horrors of being hooked to something that tastes like smoke-flavored pee.
Those with English as their mother tongue have another reason to avoid the stuff altogether, especially if any of their computers, iPhones, iPads, etc. are programmed to write in English. If you try to write snus, spellcheck will auto-correct it ” to “anus”, and there will come a night when you’re writing a text message to your friend, and things will become unexpectedly awkward.
“How much does anus cost now?”
“Hey, I’m picking up some Swedish anus on my way to your house. Do you want some?”
“I’ll share my anus if you run out.”
The potential pitfalls are endless. So just remember: friends don’t let friends snus!