I noticed recently at work that a number of my male co-workers use snus. There are Swedish women who use snus but we don’t have very many women where I work and I don’t believe the few we do have use it. I had this vague idea that snus is the same thing as chewing tobacco but people assured me it wasn’t. Snus has also been in the newspapers a lot recently so I took it as a sign that I should educate myself a little bit and then share what I learned with you. As usual, this is only my opinion about the subject becuase this is a blog and not a journal article. I’m sure some readers will know much more about the subject than I do. Also, I freely admit a predjudice against tobacco products but I tried to keep an open mind about this Swedish passion…
But What is Snus, Anyway?
According to Wikipedia, snus or Swedish snuff is a moist, smokeless tobacco product that was invented in the early 19th century in Sweden. It is placed under the lip for a length of time and the big difference between it and so-called ”American dipping tobacco” is that there is no spitting involved. Praise be!
“Snus is also unique in that it is steam-pasteurized rather than fire-cured, is not fermented and contains no added sugar.” Snus is moist and usually comes in the form of a small paper pouches that are individual servings. The whole pouch is put into the mouth.
The reason it’s been in the Swedish news a lot is because the sale of snus is technically illegal in the European Union, but there are loop holes in the attempt to ban smokeless tobaccoo and snus is still manufactured and used mostly in Norway and Sweden.
Apparently the popularity of snus is growing in the US but I personally never met anyone using it and I definitely never met anyone in a professional environment who used either chewing tobacco or snus. According to Wikipedia, ”previously, Swedish snus was only available by mail order within the United States; however, an increasing number of tobacco retailers have begun to stock popular Swedish snus products…It’s packaged in much the same way (moist tobacco in a small pouch), production methods vary considerably from traditional Scandinavian methods. Additionally, differences in the way American snus is formulated may also diminish some of the possible benefits.”
These “benefits” are hotly debated, of course.
Is Snus Harmful to Your Health?
Tobacco giant Swedish Match says that the people who want to ban snus don’t understand anything about the product. According to an article last year in The Local, ”Sweden is the only country with an exemption for the sale and marketing of snus and the country has long battled for the EU wide ban to be lifted.”
Sweden’s National Institute of Public Health (Folkhälsöinstitutet) is against dropping the ban. They worry doing so might change attitudes about snuff and increase its use. They say the product has ”only adverse health effects.” (The Local)
Is snus less harmful than other tobacco products? The answer is hotly debated. There are two camps…Some think that snus is a safer ”nicotine delivery system” than cigarettes so therefore it decreases tobacco-related deaths. ”The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges that Swedish men have the lowest rate of lung cancer in Europe, partly due to the low tobacco smoking rate, but does not argue for substituting snus for smoking, citing that the effects of snus still remain unclear.” Some cardiologists argue that the effect of nicotine on the nervous system is unclear. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snus
What Do the Snus Makers Say?
I clicked over to Swedish Match’s (the Tobacco company) site to see how they make their case. They have processing plants in Göteborg (Sweden’s second city) and in Kungälv, just to the north of Göteborg. Here’s some interesting quotes from their FAQ page.
• The average snus user consumes about three and a half cans every week. But naturally, this varies widely.
• There are over one million Swedes who use snus regularly. Of these, about 80 percent are men and 20 percent women. That’s about 26 percent of all adult males and 6 percent of adult women in Sweden are regular snus consumers.
• Swedish snus is made from selected tobaccos, salts, aromas, and moister preservatives. Snus is classed as a food product; only ingredients approved under Swedish food and health laws may be used in Swedish snus. It is produced in hygienically controlled facilities suitable for food production.
• The paper is approved for use with food by the FDA (Federal Drug Administration). The binding agent used in our paper pouches is actually a business secret of our suppliers. However, we do know that this binding agent has no animalic additives.
• Most Swedish Snus according to GothiaTek® has nicotine levels between 0.8 and 1.2 %. Nicotine levels are listed for each product in the Products section.
• Research in Sweden has not been able to show a link between snus and cancer. Based on this research the EU determined in 2001 to cancel the requirement that this cancer warning be included in all snus labeling. The cancer warning was put there based on EU requirements at the time Sweden joined the EU in 1995. Before that we didn’t need the warning for Swedish Snus according to GothiaTek®. But still, the EU has not removed the ban on selling snus in the rest of the EU.
Since I’ve never heard of snus before, I, of course, also didn’t know about any snus myths. According to Swedish Match, there is a persistent myth that snus contains (or contained at one time) ground-up glass (!) They respond, ”Swedish snus according to GothiaTek® contain no glass whatsoever, and never has! This is one of those old-time myths that we can only speculate about how it got started. We know that salt crystals can have formed in dried out snus that was made using older production methods and think that maybe these crystals looked like pieces of ground glass.”
One word. Ewwww!
Well, myths or not, unclear health affects or not, I can only say that if I went to kiss a man and found a paper packet of tobacco in the way, it would be a deal-breaker for me. I wonder what a man thinks about a woman who has snus under her lip?
What do you think? Do you use snus? Would you kiss someone who did?