Snus – A Swedish Cultural Habit

Swedes have a love for many things: coffee, lingonberries, pickled herring and crispbread. But they also love their snus – a form of tobacco consumption invented in the 17th century. Snus is so popular in Sweden that it has overtaken smoking as the most regular form of tobacco intake, with about 1 in every 4 Swedes regularly consuming snus. Regularly touted as a more harmless alternative to smoking with no “second-hand smoke” or lingering smell in the room, snus provides a much more potent experience. So, why is snus so popular in Sweden?

Snus’ Popularity in Sweden

The use of snus in Sweden is long-lived. Following on from snuff, a form of pulverised tobacco which originated in France, snus became popular in Sweden in the 17th century; first in the royal courts and then to the public. Unlike snuff, snus is absorbed in the lower lip and therefore doesn’t need to be spat out. So entrenched is snus use in Sweden that one of the first producers, Ettan, still produces snus for the Swedish market. Snus is moist and smokeless, and is sold as a powder or pre-packed in tea bag-like pouches. In Sweden, snus can be infused with a host of flavours, including citrus, juniper, bergamot and other flavours.

Snus became increasingly popular in Sweden since the 1970s, owing to awareness of the dangers associated with cigarettes. With some 18% of Swedish men opting for snus, Sweden is on track to become a non-smoking nation (with less than 5% of the population smoke). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this has drastically reduced the rates of lung cancer in Sweden. Snus is not without its harms, especially so considering nicotine is highly addictive. However, snus is widely preferred in Sweden because of the low levels of cancer-causing chemicals when compared to smoking.

So, why is snus so popular in Sweden? It’s to do with both culture and public perception. Snus has a long cultural and social use in Sweden which, when paired with public campaigns to reduce the harms of smoking, led to its rise in the 1970s until today. Snus has even been created in a tobacco-free variety in Sweden. Snus is such a part of Swedish culture that upon accession into the European Union in 1995, Sweden was allowed to continue producing and consuming snus despite the EU’s attempts to ban it.

Snus Outside of Sweden

Snus is intrinsically associated with Swedish culture. If you’re ever travelling through Stockholm, the Tobacco Museum is an ideal place to experience and learn about Sweden’s tobacco history. But what about outside of Sweden?

Snus is neither illegal to possess and consume in the UK, for instance, but the EU has placed a ban on its sale since 1992 (with some exceptions). This was a result of an attempt by American companies to introduce chewable tobacco in the UK and Europe. The status of snus can be confusing, making online retail like the best places to check out this central part of Swedish culture.