Snus

“Oh that’s a nice-looking shop”, I thought to myself as I walked along Kungsgatan. After a second or two, I quickly realised it was not some lovely boutique selling Swedish-designed furniture or clothing. It was in fact, a shop selling Snus. “Oh gross”, I thought to myself, as I peered through the window at the people inside buying something uniquely Scandinavian.

When you go into a convenience store in Stockholm, you quickly notice there are hardly any packets of cigarettes on sale. Equally, when you go to a bar, you quickly notice there’s hardly anyone outside in the “smoking area”, in stark contrast to bars in Australia, for example. To me, snus is the Swedish response to not being able to go outdoors to have a cigarette during the cold months. Instead, you get a lump of tobacco and stick in the space between your gum and top lip.

Wikipedia describes it in these terms

Snus (pron.: /ˈsnuːs/; Swedish pronunciation: [snʉːs]), is a moist powder tobacco product originating from a variant of dry snuff in the early 19th century in Sweden. It is consumed by placing it under the upper lip for extended periods of time. The precursor of snus, the dry form of snuff inhaled through the nose, was introduced in Europe much earlier. Snus is not fermented and contains no added sugar. Although used in a manner similar to American dipping tobacco, snus does not typically result in the need for spitting and is different from naswar in that snus is steam-pasteurized. Snus’ sale is illegal in Turkmenistan and the European Union, but due to special exemptions, it is still manufactured and consumed primarily in Sweden and Norway.

As I’m not a smoker (I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life), Snus comes across to me as being doubly gross. How could the Swedes get it so right with so many things, and yet totally gross me out with this?

And yet, I’ve been told that it’s probably less anti-social than smoking, and that rates of cancer in Sweden are lower because people are more inclined to use Snus than cigarettes (with all of their associated by-product). I don’t know enough about it to be sure either way.

What I do know is I think it’s pretty gross, and a real turn-off. The other night for example, I was sitting at a bar in Stockholm and there was a nice gent sitting not far away. There was, I think, a bit of mutual attraction going on. We had made eye contact and had exchanged smiles. Just when I thought I would go over and say “hej”, he reached into his pocket, pulled out his can of snus, got some out and stuck it under his top lip. Oooh, gross.

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