Tuesday, 14 May 2013 22:47

A Snus Roadtrip: the Chicago Snus Summit 2013

Written by Catherine DeMarsh-Hellwig
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The Chicago Snus Summit of 2013

Swedish Match Snus Summit Chicago 2013It is fun being the only girl who is accepted as “one of the boys,” in a generally “man’s world.” I feel it gives me advantages sometimes into more than just snus. I think it gives me a whole new perspective of men on the whole. You have heard the old saying, “boys will be boys?” Yeah if you get enough of them together in one place with something in common such as snus, or tobacco in general… grown men will become boys again.

This was my second Swedish Match Snus Summit. And I had a great time, hanging with the guys I talk to and about on line, the people behind my favorite flavors of Snus, and learning first hand so much about the snus world I didn’t know. I mean I know I could ask my husband and/or any of the guys anything and they would never think less of me. But sometimes even a girl has her pride.

Mick and I drove up to Chicago as it is only a short 6 hour drive and I don’t fly. I am working on trying to get over my fear of flying and I have a feeling there will be A LOT of snus involved in this process, which I will be happy to write and tell you all about as we work through it. Maybe in the hopes it might help someone else conquer a fear of their own.

I wrote a little about it in my article “Mom’s Gone Wild Weekend 2013 and Swedish Snus” when I had to take a ferry boat out into the bay in Charleston, South Carolina. I was doing a double of 12mg nicotine Nick and Johnny Ice. I am thinking maybe more for a trip to the airport. I can just see it now… me jumping out of my skin with a mouth full of snus. The TSA people are gonna love me.

So as I was saying, Mick and I drove up to Chicago. Let me tell you now… if you do not have to drive in Chicago… DON’T. Although taking a cab could be almost as dangerous. A little bit more on that later.

So after over an hour in a parking lot they call I90 freeway, moving at a snail’s pace, (The only thing free on this way was all the new colorful curse words I learned from several of the other drivers.) and then navigating the streets of downtown traffic at 1 in the afternoon, we found our way to the Westin hotel on Michigan Ave.

God bless the doorman we met as he gave us a ticket and asked if we would like him to park our rental car. Both of us sort of looked like the Bugs Bunny cartoon after he had been struck by lightning. Yes I had a double portion of snus in my lip, Nick and Johnny Ice in one side and LS12 in the other.

Wandering the streets of Chicago in search of snus

We checked in and went to the bar for the general welcome meet and greet. We ate lunch and was told we would have a few hours before meeting back down here for dinner. Mick had the great idea of going to check out one of the oldest tobacco stores in Chicago; a place called Iwan Ries & Company. It was established in 1857.

He says, “It is only a few blocks away,” smiling like the Cheshire cat. I know that smile well. And after a couple of drinks a few of the guys thought this was a great idea too. So off we went.

Chad had an app on his phone that had a map and directions to the bus stop, so trusting his lead we followed, across the street, around the corner and onto the wrong bus. After a mile in the wrong direction they figured this out. But it was not all a loss.

I met a very nice lady on her way home from work. I guess she noticed we were sort of together as we pointing out things to each other which most locals overlooked as background noise, and asked me if we were from out of town... sort of like when a New Yorker is in the south and they smile and say, “Ya’lls ain’t froms aroun’ hears’ is ya?” they could tell we were not native Chicagoans. We stuck out like sore thumbs. I smiled and said, “Is it that obvious?” She just smiled back and asked what brought us to town.

I explained we were here for a Snus Summit and had a few hours before dinner and thought we would explore. Somehow, shockingly, we began talking about snus. What it was, how to use it, why it is healthier than smoking, and where she could find some.

I cracked open my can of Nick and Johnny and told her to have a couple. She looked at it strangely and I told her it was fresh because it is refrigerated, with an expiration date of only a about 60 to 90 days, and how I use it when I can’t smoke like while on the bus.

She was even more surprised when I showed her I had a snus in my lip. She said she never would have known if I had not showed her because my speech was not any anyway impacted. I reached in my back pocket and pulled out two more tins, one was Catch Madison Ave rich mint flavor, and the other my white Catch peppermint Mini Strong and told her to take a couple of them as well.

As she did I explained how to slip the snus into her lip, how they were all three different levels of nicotine, and how the only one who needs to know she used snus was her and her cashier. She smiled at me as slipped the portions into her purse. Sort of like a lady’s real hair color… no one but your hair dresser needs to know the truth.

She said she would come check us out here on SnusCentral.org and look into snus, as it sounded like a great alternative to smoking. I told her how my husband had completely quit smoking with THIS type of snus.

Well we finely got on the right bus and back the mile the other way from the hotel. As we were walking, the boys found a 7-Eleven where they bought every can in the cooler of his General Snus. It was great because there were other costumers asking about what and why we were buy them out of this stuff. So we took a minute and in turns told them about snus.

They must have thought we were crazy because we were so excited about telling more people about our favorite form of tobacco. A few more blocks and we were in the tobacco store we had come to see.

Walking in the front door from the street and into the elevator, you could smell as well as taste the many wonderful tobacco blends that had passed through the doors over the many years. The walls themselves whispered untold stories of years of tobacco lovers as they passed by picking up a little bit of aroma, holding it for a while like an image from a faded photograph, then exhaling it slowly to the people as they passed over the years of another time and life.

It was almost like being in another place in time when people were free to openly enjoy tobacco honestly and lavishly. You could almost see the ghosts of the flappers in their best dresses and men in their finest Zoot suits, as they came and went in a haze of their favorite tobaccos.

While the boys went and drooled over the nostalgia of the store I went to the smoking lounge where I found three nice gentlemen talking about the good old days when you didn’t have to hide to enjoy your tobacco and asked if they would mind if a lady joined them. They happily accepted and I told them I would go find them a lady. All three laughed and asked me to sit down.

Now that the ice was broken I felt free to join in the conversation; tobacco and how you can’t smoke anywhere it seems without some anti-all-tobacco extremist telling you how bad it is for your health, how dirty it is or, my personal favorite… how to quit. I love these types of conversations because it gives me a chance to direct or open the conversation to my favorite tobacco… Swedish Snus.

I told them as I have so many others, I smoke when I can and Snus when I can’t smoke, which either lands the conversation in the “I tried that Camel SNUS and hated it…” “I have used Camel snus a few times,” or “What is that?” camps. Either way the door is opened.

I am not sure which is worse? The people who have tried the American BS they try to call Snus or the people who have no clue what it is? Because 9 out of 10 times people hear the word Snus and once they hear it goes in your lip think of some barefoot hillbilly in overalls with a pouch of Redman hanging out his bibs pocket, a spit can in one hand and tobacco juice drooling out of the corner of his lip and down his chin.

In a way I wish Swedish snus had been able to be introduced to the American people in a manner to which RJR had done with their Camel SNUS, with the same blanketed and aggresive promotion. Then and only then would Americans be able to understand not only how different they (they being dip, American snus, and Swedish Snus) are but how Swedish snus is a healthier choice as an alternative to smoking.

The Snus Summit Meeting Room prior to the opening ceremoniesSome of the things we were told in this Summit that I found most interesting was how there is a higher percentage of people in Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden who use tobacco yet they have the lowest lung cancer rate. If you look at the numbers there are only a small percentage who smoke, yet a higher number which use snus, Swedish snus.

If only we could find a way to help the American market or even be allowed to advertise snus as a safe alternate to quitting smoking. Big Pharma companies are allowed advertise on TV, magazines’ and/or anywhere else as long as they put in the “fine” print the risks. Have you ever actually tried to read that “fine” print?

Even on commercials after they have told you how wonderful it is and have you convinced it is the greatest thing since sliced bread to use to quit smoking, then comes the “fine print” speech. In low tones by a man who was born to be an auctioneer told you how “this product has been known to cause suicide.”

Guess what? I personally know of NO deaths caused by quitting smoking using snus. Or my favorite concerning nicotine gum was only 7% of the people studied one year later really quit smoking. Really? So 93% who tried it in the studies didn’t quit? The only one who didn't fail here was Big Pharma's profits with nicotine gum selling for around $39-$49 a box!

How fair is that when even the snus the Nordic countries use who have the highest use of tobacco and yet with the lowest lung cancer rates are not only banned from the airways and in print to say the same, “…trying to quit smoking? Try this…” are forced to label their entire product line with 1/3 of their face label with “This product may cause cancer.” When the Big Pharma companies whose product causes a higher risk of suicide only has to put it is “fine print?” Print so small a congress critter lawyer would have trouble reading it and yet they think you and I can.

In the long run Swedish snus is not only the safer alternative to not only smoking but also with fewer side effects than their Big Pharma pills, AND with a higher success rate. Chantix has about a 40% success rate in the first 9 to 12 weeks, with enough side effects to scare anyone straight, but to hear them tell it or even a doctor tell it… it is the only way to quit. Forgive me while I laugh and continue to spread the truth. Swedish style Snus is the healthiest way to quit smoking.

During dinner we continued to discuss the pros and cons of today’s market and how our beloved Swedish Snus was doing in both the American as well as general Nordic and non-EU European markets.

We talked about the people I had talked to and how it takes almost a one on one to help undo the damage many American tobacco companies have done by producing an inferior product. Reynolds American did a wonderful job at explaining what snus is, how it is used, and generally why one should try it.

But then they dropped the ball; first by giving a sugary sub-standard version of real snus to a public who had no clue what real snus was and then convincing them it was great. Some super sickening sweet powdered tobacco in a pouch which they call snus.

Second by just telling them, “…when you can’t smoke do this until you can get to your real tobacco.” Ok I will admit I am still in this boat only because I refuse to give up my smokes. Even though I only smoke 3 to 4 cigarettes a day now, I know what they do to me. I fully understand the consequences of my actions, and yes I will continue to smoke. I figure if I am going to kill myself slowly, I might as do right. But that is better than the almost 5 to 7 cigarettes I smoked BEFORE I found snus.

After dinner the conversation didn’t end there as we went into the hotel bar and over a few drinks continued our conversations of how saying if you are a tobacco user at all is almost admitting you kick kittens and drown puppies in your spare time. Late into the night… we truly had a round table discussion of just about everything there was to do about tobacco.

The Journey Home: Miles to snus before I sleep....

After the next morning’s meetings we were turned loose to go home. Long good-byes and hugs from friends we consider family. A big thank you for the invite to the summit to the right people, and we were off.

Since Mick and I drove about 6 hours to Chicago we had another 6 hour drive home to discuss the meetings, rehash our dinner conversations, and allow the information to roll around in our heads and the car. Snus in our lips, we tackled the Chicago interstate parking lot yet again, this time trying not to be ran over.

Once out of the city Mick pulled over, exhausted from the fight with crazy people on their way home. A few minutes into my turn driving home Mick was fast asleep in the passenger seat. I pulled back on the highway, set the music, the cruise control, popped a portion of Nick and Johnny Green Spyke Xtra strong snus under my lip and we were off.

About an hour later he woke up and asked me why I was so upset. While I was trying to explain to him about the jerk behind me, Mick opened his now full catch lid and mumbled something under his breath, then rolled down his window and flicked his used portion out the window. [Editor's Note: Mick was half asleep at the time. We do not condone weaponizing your used snus unless there is a very, very good reason]

Looking back in the review mirror I could see the jerk cursing me with a cigarette in one hand as he used the other to give me the universal sign for his displeasure; so close in fact I could see only his windshield… then SPLAT! The portion hit his windshield, landed just above the driver side wiper and then slid up the windshield.

This caused a whole new line of interesting dialog. When I finally pulled around the trucker I was passing, he pulled around and again gave the universal symbol of his disgust with my driving as well as a few new expletives. I smiled back at him snus and all. About another five miles down the road I saw the state highway patrol had someone pulled over… guess who? Yep. Again I smiled as we drove by.

To say the least we made it home with no other incidents safe and sound.

What is the moral of this article? Well snus is more than just a bridge to your next cigarette, it IS a way you can quit smoking IF you want to, and don’t tailgate me because you never know if it is a used snus portion or a booger I may flip on your windshield.

CATHERINE DeMARSH-HELLWIG

On the road for God and Snus
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org

Read 9502 times Last modified on Saturday, 09 November 2013 03:08

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