Snus history - how it all started

Snus in the 15th and 16th century

The history of the Swedish snus we use today, applied as a pinch under the lip, goes about 200 years back in time. Many farmers had their own groves where they made snuff in self-made squalor warns. A couple of hundred years earlier, in the late 1400s, Christopher Columbus sailed ashore on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean and saw the natives inhale a powder. They called this nasal snuff. The powder consisted largely of tobacco and the sailors brought with them tobacco plants back to Portugal, among other European countries. The tobacco plants were believed to have many medical advantages, one of them was to cure migraines. The French royal house started using nasal snuff for this reason in the 1500s, and it quickly became very popular since it appeared to work. It was Jean Nicot, the French Ambassador to Portugal, who brought the tobacco with him back to Paris and to the royal house. The ensuing popularity made Nicot associated with tobacco to such a degree that our own Carl von Linné named it after him.

17th-19th century: Snus is born

Swedish royalty was, like most royal houses at the time, highly influenced by the French one, and the nasal snuff made it to Sweden a few decades into the 1600s. It was used exclusively by the upper class for a while, and was seen as a luxury item placed in cans of precious metals. After several decades of importing, Sweden finally started growing its own tobacco in Skåne and in Småland. Usage of nasal snuff decreased rapidly in France as the French Revolution took place. It was too heavily associated with the upper class, and the bourgeoisie who took over power in France began to smoke cigars instead.

People in Sweden also changed their tobacco use around this time. The Swedish snus was introduced and with a relatively cheap manufacturing process, it almost erased the use of nasal snuff and chewing tobacco completely. Production was initially managed by farmers, but it soon became industrialized and a number of manufacturers with related brands saw the light of day. General Snus, Röda Lacket and Ljunglöfs Ettan were the largest.

Today’s manufacturing methods differ little from those in the 1800s. Tobacco is dried and milled down, then mixed with water, salt, soda and flavoring. As the process ends, Swedish Snus is fermented using high temperatures before packaging. The main difference today is that fermentation processes took half a year in the 1800s and that locally grown tobacco was used. Today, tobacco from various parts of the world is used in production.

20th century and the European Union

In the early 1900s, the consumption of Swedish snus was at a constant increase and the now monopolized tobacco industry was flourishing. Every year, several thousand tons were sold, financing the Swedish defense system during the First World War. However, there was a growing interest in other tobacco products, especially American cigarettes. This resulted in a decrease in snus consumption for a few years until people were becoming aware of the huge health risks of cigarette smoking.

As reports were spreading on cigarette-related health concerns, snus began being promoted as a smokeless choice. Unfortunately, with the release of a new American "smokeless tobacco" in the 1900s, the EU grew concerned of its possible health risks, especially as it targeted young people. As a result, in 1992 the European Union placed an EU-wide ban on all oral tobacco products.

Today, snus is a popular option for those determined to quit smoking. Quite luckily so, as studies have discovered that the rate of success is increased by a whopping 45%. In fact, many reports indicate that snus should be promoted as a smokeless option, as it is shown to be much less harmful than smoking.

Snus today

A few hundred years ago, when snus was first being manufactured in Sweden, snus users had very few options in terms of flavor, shape and size which limited the possible consumer base for the snus industry back then. It wasn't until the 1970s when the first portion snus saw the light of day, that the sales curve for snus truly started pointing straight upwards. Since then, a sea of new and innovative products alongside classics such as Ettan Loose have risen, and the competition between the leading snus producers and newcomers is fiercer than ever. In today's snus market, you will find that there truly is a snus for every taste and occasion. The huge variety of snus products available today not only differ in terms of flavor and strength levels, but also in size, comfort and dampness.