As Swedish and Scandinavian snus use by Americans continues to grow, I'm receiving more questions and noticing more posts on snus forums equating the quality of snus by the amount of nicotine it contains. People talk of "moving up" to the extra high nicotine Extra Stark / Extra Strong /Ekstra Sterk snuses as though it is a right of passage to being a real snus user. In large part, this comes from American-style snuses like Camel SNUS, Marlboro Snus, and the others intentionally having very low free nicotine levels. Their marketing was and with some American snus manufacturers still is to encourage their cigarette smokers to use snus as an accessory to cigarettes; not as a replacement. Counting test marketing, for all practical purposes Big American Tobacco-style snus has a rich history going all the way back to 2006. Just 5 years ago as of this writing. That's it. We're talking pre-iPhone but not pre-internet, pre-telephone, or pre-electricity.
In the 200 years of Swedish snus history, the extra high nicotine snus category didn't really exist until 2008. It was not created to satisfy the demands of snus users in Sweden. About the only two brands of stark snus; strong snus in English, which were noteworthy up until then were General Onyx and skruf Stark snus. In the case of General Onyx, Swedes purchased it because of the taste: Swedish Match marketed Onyx and still does as the top of the line product in the General Snus family. Nicotine information was available but Swedish Match never highlighted or called any attention to nicotine in their marketing of General Onyx.
UPDATE #2 - 29 MAR 2011: The Swedish snus eStore owned by Snus World Wide AB has been shut down and its assets seized. At the time of this writing, we're told a cancer organization in Finland filed suit against the Swedish snus store for allegedly selling snus to customers in Finland. This cancer organization apparently won the suit.
Latest information is that Finland presented the findings to Swedish Customs. On Tuesday, March 22nd, the Swedish Customs Service and local Police raided the SnusWorldWide.com facilities and seized them along with the inventory and other contents. Snus World Wide AB's bank accounts were simultaneously frozen. The company website has been locked down; displaying only the message "Maintenance - SnusWorldWide.com will be back online Tuesday, 29th March 2011. We have been unable to reach management for a comment as of yet.
Altria announced yesterday that it will be introducing Skoal Sticks and Marlboro Sticks into Kansas test markets in March 2011.. In doing so, Altria continues on its course of do whatever Reynolds does even if we don't know quite why.
Anti-all-tobacco extremist groups like CTFK/ACS/AHa/ALA are in an uproar. They had declared victory when Reynolds announced they were pulling the Camel Dissolvables from their two test markets. Mission Accomplished, Matt Myers of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids!.
The victory was short-lived as Reynolds then announced they would start marketing the Camel Dissolvable products in two new test markets - Denver and Charlotte. And now Altria stumbles into the dissolvables marketplace with Marlboro Sticks and Skoal Sticks.
In a story published earlier this week, David Howard of RJ Reynolds spoke to me about the Camel smoke-free products: Camel SNUS, Camel Orbs, Camel Strips, and Camel Sticks. The last three are dissolvable tobacco products. During this interview, Howard became quite animated over the continued use by anti-all-tobacco extremists of descriptors like Chewing Gum, Mint and Candy when bashing dissolvable tobacco products.
"Camel Dissolvables are only for and marketed to adult tobacco consumers. We make that very clear in our advertising and point of sale materials. The products are clearly labeled with all required tobacco warning labels, are sold from behind the counter like other tobacco products, and can only be sold to adults legally of age to purchase tobacco products in that State", Howard stated.
Those same extremists wasted no time in making the same charge against the new Altria dissolvable products coming out under the Marlboro and Skoal brand names. Ironically, Big Pharma; the makers of nicotine chewing gum which come in flavors such as Cherry, White Ice Mint, Fruit Chill, Cinnamon Surge and FreshMint, petitioned FDA to force the removal of Camel Dissolvable products from the market last year. Their hypocrisy is striking, yet sadly familiar.
Bill Godshall, Exective Director of Smokefree Pennslyvania, has long been leading the charge to reduce and eliminate cigarette smoking by providing smokefree alternatives to existing smokers. As Bill's position exhibits common sense and compassion for the nicotine-addicted, many of his former anti-cigarette allies have shunned him in horror.
In an interview published today by Richard Carver in the Winston-Salem Journal, Godshall summed up the fear of the anti-all-tobacco extremists quite simply. "The reason anti-tobacco extremists falsely claim that dissolvable smokeless products are target marketed to youth is because they don't want adult smokers to switch to these far less hazardous alternatives."
As to the perpetual use of the words candy, mints, and gum by these same extremists, Godshall had this to say, "Anyone who truly desires to reduce youth tobacco use would never call these products candy, as doing so encourages youth usage."
The US Department of Defense press release hyping tomorrow's "Great American Spit Out" event, began with this statement: "Using smokeless tobacco—spit, dip, chew, snus, etc.—can pose a stinky, unsavory obstacle to sharing a kiss with a loved one, parent, child or sweetheart. Surgery to treat oral cancer, which has been linked to smokeless tobacco use, can remove parts of the face, tongue, cheek or lip, severely damaging one’s social desirability, not to mention the telltale bulging cheeks, gunk stuck in teeth, permanently discolored teeth and spitting cups--hardly date-bait." Snus and etc. users now spread the Kiss of Death to all their loved ones through Second Hand Snus!!
How did Matt Myers and the other anti-all-tobacco zealots miss this one? Where are their press releases; the demands for FDA to "save our children" from the deadly oral transmission of second hand snus? Why hasn't the CDC in Atlanta launched a bio-hazard alert? Why hasn't anyone funded Greg Connolly or one of the other anti-all-tobacco "researchers" to conduct one of their so-called studies highlighting the snus Kiss of Death?
There are a number of tobacco and CPG trade shows held for the industry each year. One of the long-time staples has been the Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE). I attended TPE 2009 in New Orleans and TPE 2010 in Las Vegas. I was disappointed by TPE 2010 and made no secret of it. My article at the time, Tobacco Plus Expo 2010 - An Underwhelming Experience, was fairly blunt but intentionally incomplete. I'll explain why shortly.
Perhaps the biggest bombshell at TPE 2010 was the formal announcement by long-time TPE supporter The National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO) that they were withdrawing their involvement and support of TPE. Instead, they were launching their own show; The NATO Show, beginning in April 2011. The official reason for this was that NATO felt it was in the "best interests of their members". Other issues aside, NATO's frustration was best demonstrated by TPE 2010 and validated by the agenda and tone of TPE 2011.
In a conference call with the tobacco industry (and me) earlier today, FDA announced they would begin to enforce the Substantial Equivalence provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA). Essentially this means that any tobacco product including cigarettes, snus, snuff, ryo tobacco, and any other product which was not commercially available in the US as of Feb 15 2007 and/or has been "changed" by the manufacturer can be pulled off the market by FDA as of March 23, 2010. In order to prevent this, manufacturers selling tobacco products in American stores must comply with the TCA and FDA rules by completing and submitting one of the following prior to March 23, 2010:
FDA stated in its Guidance Document that "All new [post-February 2007] tobacco products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are subject to these provisions. Currently, FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) regulates cigarettes, roll-your-own, and smokeless tobacco products. However, the law permits FDA to deem other tobacco products to be subject to the Tobacco Control Act through rulemaking."
Regardless of your (or my) opinion of the product Camel SNUS as compared to Swedish Snus, there is no denying that Reynolds American and their RJRT division have been largely responsible for introducing the word "snus" into the American vocabulary. Looking back, the evolution of Camel SNUS presents a good mirror of public and government attitudes in the US as well as a peek into the possible future for American tobacco lovers.
In January 2006, there was no Camel SNUS and I was still a cigarette smoker. Like almost all Americans, I had never heard of Swedish snus. My local tobacco store of choice, Up in Smoke, may have sold General Snus in 2006, but it was never called to my attention or even noticed.
The important thing is that Up in Smoke was selling General Snus in the summer of 2007. That's when I received a coupon in the mail for the first version of modern Camel SNUS and later that day, heard of Swedish snus for the first time. The rest is snus history, although not uniquely mine. Most American users of Swedish Snus first heard of snus because of Camel SNUS and to a much lesser degree, Altria's Marlboro Snus.
Back in 2001, Swedish Match launched Click Portion Snus in India. Don't worry; it tasted absolutely nothing like Chaini Khaini. Click Snus was REAL snus and was a huge success. On Feb 21st 2003, Click Licorice Portion Snus was added to the line-up. The Click brand was becoming such a success that Swedish Match decided to take Click international.
The Click brand was launched in Russia and plans were made to launch Click Snus in Japan. Back then, Swedish Match's entry into South Africa, Russia, and India was the talk of the international tobacco industry and Click Portion Snus was the star.
While Click Snus was made at the Gothenburg Factory under the same GothiaTek standards the other Swedish Match snus products were held to, it was never released in Sweden. Click was created to be a Swedish snus product for emerging world markets.
Fast forward to 2010: Swedish Match and Philip Morris International continue their joint venture designed to use PMI's clout, Swedish Match's products and snus making expertise to enter new global markets as a much more aggressive/significant force to be reckoned with. As for the Click brand name, 2010-2011 brings back a great snus with a very unique product launch schedule.
[Updated 3 Dec 2010] Gotlandssnus AB continues to expand it's Jakobsson's Snus line of American snus user targeted products. Jakobsson's Wintergreen Strong Portion Snus is joined this week by Jakobssons Mint Strong Portion Snus and Jakobssons Classic Strong Portion Snus. SnusCENTRAL.org was the first to reveal the coming of Jakobssons Mint and Classic Strong Portions back on August 31st 2010.
These three Jakobssons snuses share a few unique things in common. While the portions are still one gram in weight each, there are only 20 portions per can as opposed to the 24 to 26 portions per can the other Swedish Snus manufacturers market. Indeed, the non-American market designed Jakobsson's snus products; Ice Fruit and Classic, still retain 24 grams of snus per can as of today....at least according to the official Gotlandssnus graphic posted on their website as I write this. My current cans do say 20 though, and back in the day, all large portion Swedish Snuses came as 24 1 gr portions per can. A 20 gram original portion offering would have stood out and I have no memory of any special issues with Jakobsson's Ice Fruit. We may have a new snus-mystery on our hands.
Mystery aside, this makes the new Jakobsson's snuses less of a bargain compared to other Swedish snuses but still a better deal than American snus.
It's not always easy being a Swedish snus lover and American. It can even be tougher if the American in question is new to Swedish snus. I'm not new to Swedish snus; I have enjoyed Kardus Superior Blend Vintage 2009 and 2010. I understand and agree it is the finest example of the Swedish snus maker's craft. I eagerly read the fascinating story behind each vintage prior to it's release. I know it's very rare and is only made available once a year, and then only if Swedish Match determines that year's vintage is worthy to be called a Kardus Superior Blend snus.
When I was texted a picture of an Ettan Kardus, I was excited and confused at the same time. If even I, the Swedish Snus Ambassador to the United States, was confused, then the American snusing public must be at a complete loss. I investigated further and what I found was still not making sense.
Each Ettan Kardus package includes 250 grams of snus. It is also very rare and only 40 total pieces were being made available to the entire Internet community in 2010. I toiled away with the SnusCIA trying to learn why...and more. In response to my inquiry, Markus Ersmark of Swedish Match texted me from his iPhone that the suggested retail price of Kardus Ettan was 250 SEK. That's less than 40 USD. What???
Since it was late on a Friday night in Sweden, I assumed Markus was either drunk or the cab he was in hit a bump while he was texting. There must be a zero missing from that price! After all, Kardus Superior Blend 2010 retailed for just under 70 USD and that was only for 100 grams. How could Ettan Kardus be half the price yet contain 2 1/2 times the snus? They both used the Swedish word "Kardus" in their descriptions. What was going on here???
Marcus sent me a .pdf explaining the Ettan Kardus story. Unfortunately, it was in Swedish and my translation software did not work on .pdf files. Markus promised to commission an English translation at his own expense and forward it as soon as he could. Two sleepness nights later, I received this translation:
In 1822, Jakob Ljunglöf’s Ettan snus was one of the most popular snus brands available and to this day, it’s unarguably the oldest and most recognizable brand in Sweden. Back then, Ettan was packaged much differently than the familiar round cans we know of today. When Jakob first began producing Ettan loose, he would hand pack the snus in 250 gram packages called “kardus” which were made from heavy paper and once folded, resembled a letter, hence the kardus, or “letter snus” name. This method of packaging in paper remained the standard for Ettan loose for over 160 years with only minor changes. In the early 1900’s, oval cardboard containers that held either 50 or 100 grams of snus replaced the square 250 gram packages due to convenience and portability. About 40 years ago, the Swedish Tobacco Monopoly (Svenska Tobaksmonopolet) decided that loose snus needed to be placed in a more durable container and replaced the oval shape for the round one we are familiar with today. Prior to the paper and cardboard containers, loose snus was purchased in containers ranging from wooden barrels and porcelain containers to glass bottles! But some snus connoisseurs still yearned for the historical kardus packages and their dreams have now been answered.At the Tobacco & Match Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, you can still purchase Ettan loose the way it was sold back in 1822. The museum packages 250 grams of Ettan loose in the original kardus style and each one is packaged by hand, signed by the packer and dated, just like the old days but unfortunately, these historical packages can only be purchased at the museum.
For years, I've assumed Kardus was the Swedish word representing a premium product or was the brand name of some long lost historical snus. Instead, it turns out to be a post office term describing the paper and fold of an envelope. Hmmm.
That may explain Ettan Kardus, but Kardus Superior Blend has always been packaged in a wooden box with the snus safely contained in a plastic capsule within. Does 'kardus' also refer to shipping boxes or containers?
How did the Swedish Post Office get involved in the snus business in the first place? Was calling their snus Kardus some kind of payoff by early snus manufacturers so Swedish Post would deliver it? Could the first snus called kardus actually have been a paid advertisement for the post office? Was early snus sponsored the same way sports stadiums in the USA are now? Did that sponsorship include naming rights? Are a Grovsnus UPS or Goteborg's FedEX Edition snus destined for our future?
It's a good thing that Ettan and Kardus Superior Blend rank as two of my very favorite Swedish snuses. I'd still use and love them even if they came in plastic sandwich bags....although I probably not would have the empty plastic bags on display as I do my snus cans and boxes.
Ah, the illusions of our snus-youth. As we grow and mature in Swedish snus, we must put such childish visions behind us and move forward. Time to go; I have to drop by the post office and mail my car payment kardus.
Enjoying my REAL Swedish Snus, whatever it's called.....
LARRY WATERSSwedish Snus Ambassador to the United StatesReporting for SnusCENTRAL.org
The SnusCIA learned two days ago that Offroad Long Cut Red Blend was almost out of stock. Today that has become a reality; everyone's favorite Snus eStore has taken the product page off-line.
Merry Julesnus! Tis the holiday season once again and visions of Julesnus, or Christmas snus, dance in snuser's heads. This year, instead of just reviewing the Gotlandsnus Julesnus and Nordstrommen Julesnus offerings, I decided to look into the history of Julesnus.
Sweden has a long history of Christmas-themed cigars, cigarettes and pipe tobacco, so it would seem like a natural progression to extend that flavoring to snus. Surely in the last 200 years, someone had produced a Christmas snus; a tradition which was born again in the early 21st century. I was very surprised by what I discovered.
There is a legend surrounding Julesnus stemming from an incident in December 1836. It seems that Hedvig Unz and JF Ljungolf were attending the same Christmas party.
As was his habit, Unz became extremely drunk and began wildly gesturing with his mug of GLÖGG, the classic Swedish warm Christmas drink. His arm banged into that of Ljungolf and Unz's drink splashed into Ljungolf's open snuff box of Ettan snus.
Ljungolf was incensed and stormed out of the party. He never said if he had tasted the GLÖGG-soaked Ettan but since he never produced a Christmas Snus, it's safe to say he was not impressed if he had.
Unz was later found passed out in a snow drift and had no memory of the incident the next day. This is a common holiday occurrence within the snus-legendary Unz family to this day and also, as a bit of trivia, Per Andersson of JTI Sweden.
Tweet to @Mr_UNZ
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