Good questions! A little background on my personal tobacco use first, but all you need to know at this point is Snus is a tobacco product developed in Sweden over 200 hundred years ago.
I'm going on 50 and have been a tobacco user since I was 13 (with one 5 year hiatus). Cigarettes were my tobacco of choice, although I did go through a cigar period. One thing I never got into was American Chewing Tobacco. The spitting was disgusting and if you swallowed it, it made you sick.
For years, the anti-smoking zealots have made it more and more difficult to smoke in public. No smoking in buildings, no smoking in bars in many states, standing outside in the cold catching a quick smoke break while passer's by looked at you with either hostility or pity. Employers establishing "We don't hire Smokers" rules. It was no fun anymore.
When RJ Reynolds came out with Eclipse Cigarettes, I saw salvation.
I've written many posts on Eclipse: how it heats the tobacco instead of burning it, has virtually no odor, 80% of what you exhale is water vapor so practically no "second hand smoke". Eclipse comes in two varieties, regular and menthol.
I tried to wean myself onto the regulars, but when it comes to taste, they need to go back to the lab. I found myself enjoying the menthol's and smoked them for years.
Then hard financial times fell upon us and the Texas State Legislature decided to raise the cigarette tax $1 per pack. I smoke a carton a week and Eclipse were suddenly $60 a carton. I simply couldn't afford it.
So through secret connections at an Indian Reservation, I was able to buy "Native" brand cigarettes for $12.50/carton. They actually tasted better than the Camel Lights of my pre-Eclipse days but I was back to smoking "real" cigarettes.
My clothes reeked of cigarette smoke, my hair reeked of cigarette smoke, my car reeked of cigarette smoke. I was once again relegated to smoking in the garage, the temperature of which regularly exceeds 110 degrees in the Texas summer.
Job interviews were even worse. When you got to the interview, you had to spray yourself with Fabreeze, wash your hands and face with portable soap, and spray your mouth with Listerine.
This was just getting to be too inconvenient. I began considering the unthinkable: quitting again! But I had tried that before and it was horrible. "Hi, my name is Larry and I'm a nicotine-addict." And to honest, I didn't want to quit. Cigarettes were legal and I resented the politically correct's intrusion into my lifestyle.
Then I heard about something called Snus. Marlboro and Camel were test-marketing their "version" of snus in Texas. Their snus comes in little dry packets that go between the lip and the gum. The big attraction is that you just leave it there: no spitting! And it has nicotine!
My local convenience store clerk slipped me a coupon for a free can of Camel SNUS, so I figured why not? And it wasn't bad! Of course I had nothing to compare it to yet.
My next step was to hit the Internet to see where I could get the cheapest Camel or Marlboro snus from. What I discovered instead was a whole new world of genuine Swedish Snus!
Swedish snus is a ground tobacco product dating back over 200 years and is used orally. It is moist for easy use and contains four main ingredients. Selected tobaccos, water, salt, food approved humectants to preserve moisture and flavor additives which give each brand its unique character. Some snus flavor recipes go back hundreds of years.
It is most importantly the manufacturing process and the high requirements of the selection of tobacco which makes the Swedish snus unique.
Swedish snus is manufactured through a steam-pasteurization process that ensures that the TSNA's; micro organisms and carcinogens, are virtually eliminated and that the snus stays fresh longer. Wait a minute: the cancer causing agents are so low in Swedish Snus they are virtually non-existent?
In Sweden, snus is regulated by the Swedish Government as a food product and therefore the sanitation requirements are the same as those used in food production. All additives that are used must be approved by the Swedish version of the FDA as food additives.
The most typical way to consume snus is to place a pouch (called a portion) of it beneath the upper lip, and keep it there for a time varying from a few minutes to several hours, according to taste. And NO SPITTING! Swedish snus is also available loose, as in no pouch. You make what's commonly called a "pinch"; either by hand or with a tool, and place that between your lip and gum. Like the portion pouches, NO SPITTING!
To summarize, Swedish snus comes as loose-weight snus and two versions of portion-packed snus. Portion-packed snus is available in a range of flavors and portion sizes (Mini, Large and Maxi). The selection is in the hundreds, not just 3 or 4 like American snus.
I looked at the health information on Swedish snus and, after reading a lot of tedious studies, discovered the following amazing information:
* Sweden has Europe’s highest per capita consumption of Snus
* Sweden has the lowest cigarette consumption in Europe
* Sweden has the lowest lung cancer mortality rate in Europe
* Sweden has one of the lowest oral cancer mortality rate in Europe
* Sweden has the lowest percentage of smoking-related deaths among developed countries
What intrigued me the most were three things: that Swedish Snus would last up to several hours in your mouth, that Sweden had the lowest oral cancer mortality rate in all of Europe and that Swedish Snus had nicotine! They even told you how much nicotine: regular is 8 mg. (the orally absorbed equivalent of one cigarette) and the Strong snus, known as Stark or Sterk snus, usually had 11 mg. The American Tobacco companies we not releasing nicotine content then because they don't have to. Some do today, but it's optional and unverified.
To the first point, Camel SNUS advertises it lasts 10 minutes up to a half hour and Marlboro snus even less than that.
The second point amazed me as I have friends who used chewing tobacco or dip and developed mouth cancer or gum problems at relatively young ages.
As I researched it more and discovered some small snus forums, I discovered that Swedish snus had what appeared to be a totally different taste than the Camel SNUS I had been trying. So how lucky was I that less than a mile away was a tobacco store which had a snus refrigerator and carried Swedish snus!
That's right, one of the things I learned is that snus has a "best used by" date and is to be refrigerated until the can is opened! The Camel and Marlboro snus were just sitting on the counter in the sun at my local convenience store.
I purchased a can of General-brand regular portion snus (real Swedish snus for less than the Camel and Marlboro price) and with some nervousness, opened the can. The physical difference was immediately apparent. While the Camel snus portions were dry, The General portion bags were wet. I inserted a pouch between upper lip and gum.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE IN TASTE!!!!!!!! It's like the difference between a $2 bottle of wine and a $200 bottle of wine! (and I speak from experience). It's like the difference between a .50 cent cigar and a genuine Cuban Montecristo.
AND IT LASTED!!!!! While the Camel's would go tasteless in less than a half hour, I went almost 2 HOURS with my first pouch of Generals.
Compared to the Swedish snus, the Camel SNUS tasted like flavored sawdust. One person in the tobacco shop said that he had tried the Marlboro and all it gave him was a headache.
Swedish snus also comes in a variety of flavors from peppery tobacco, to fruit flavored, to alcohol flavored, and more. And as inexpensive as it was at my tobacco store ($4.50/can + tax), you can order rolls (10 cans) shipped from Sweden which arrive apparently in less than a week for $3.50/can and less.
AND THE VALUE! The can of General regular portion snus I purchased had 24 pouches (they're called portions) each weighing 1.0 gram.
Camel SNUS at that time came with 20 pouches each weighing only 0.4 grams each! They later "increased" the weight to 0.6 grams BUT cut the number of pouches from 20 to 15!
Marlboro snus originally had 16 pouches weighting 0.4 gram. They (it's unclear, but I THINK) raised the weight to 0.6 gram but now a can comes with only 12 pouches! And both Camel and Marlboro cost MORE than Swedish Snus!
And imagine the price of Swedish Snus if the dollar ever picks up against the Euro!
I'm down to my last carton of cigarettes. Right now I'm doing a little snus and still smoking. When the last pack is gone, it will be 100% snus. It will probably be a little tough the first week, but the anti-smoking zealots have beaten me. It's just too inconvenient to smoke anymore.
And for those of you non-smokers saying "why doesn't he just quit tobacco altogether?", my response is simple: I'm a nicotine-addict. If you're not, you can't begin to appreciate what it's like to stop.
Nicotine is more addictive than heroin. My mother stopped smoking with a great deal of difficulty over 40 years ago and still to this day has the occasional craving for a cigarette.
The 46 million+ American cigarette smokers today are nicotine addicts to one degree or another too: otherwise, you holier-than-thou anti-smoking zealots have and continue to make it so difficult and uncomfortable to be a cigarette smoker we would have all just quit a long time ago.
Of course, the United States economy would have collapsed too: do you have ANY idea how much the Federal and State governments DEPEND on tobacco tax revenue?
Roughly 80% of the price of a pack of cigarettes is State and Federal taxes. That's 46+ million smokers buying anywhere from a few packs to a few cartons a week. You do the math.
Why ELSE didn't they just make cigarettes illegal after the Surgeon Generals report came out in 1964?
Instead, just a "warning label" and advertising restrictions? Maybe the $250 Billion Settlement between the Government and Big Tobacco had something to do with it too? Many more benign products have been banned in a heartbeat. Why not cigarettes? Welcome to the real world: follow the money.
As for me, I don't want to give up tobacco. I like the taste. I may be beaten, but my spirit is not broken! And for "some reason", cigarettes and tobacco is STILL LEGAL despite everything.
Swedish snus does satisfy my nicotine cravings, though it's going to be tough to give up the "smoking experience". UPDATE: within a few weeks of going cigarette free and 100% Swedish snus, I had only a rare desire for a cigarette: a few weeks after that, I didn't even THINK about cigarettes, haven't had one since, and don't think about them or miss them a bit!
One item I want to note: The anti-tobacco zealots went crazy when Marlboro and Camel introduced their test marketing of snus in 2006.
Anti-smoking "medical professionals" immediately came out with a statement that "long-term" use of snus (long-term was left undefined) MAY lead to an increased chance of pancreatic cancer because of the nicotine. Even the Swedish snus manufacturers are required to warn consumers that snus does not guarantee you won't get cancer.
But compared to cigarettes or chewing tobacco/dip with their HIGH risk of oral cancer, lung cancer, emphysema, smokers cough, and; since they have nicotine too, pancreatic cancer (allegedly?),[the TRUTH comes out in a later article, just to throw a teaser in] and the ever increasing social and professional stigma fostered by the anti-smoking crowd: BIG DEAL!
SWEDISH Snus is the most risk-free (the lawyers make me say "reduced harm"), tastiest, most discreet: use it ANYWHERE, best value, tobacco product to enjoy if you want nicotine and great taste. I want both and as an American using a legal product and being of more than legal age, I'm ENTITLED TO by law, and I NEED my nicotine! Thank you Sweden! Thank you SO much!
The Snus Guru
October 18th, 2007