Swedes were by a large measure snus traditionalists. Loose snus with nicotine levels around 8 mg per gram were the norm. To this day, the Lös (loose) snus made by Swedish Match is packed in cardboard cans made from scratch in their Gothenburg Sweden Snus Factory. To a traditional Swedish snus user, putting loose snus in plastic cans was like......putting wine in boxes instead of bottles. Unthinkable.
In fact, until 1973 loose snus was the only type of Swedish snus available. The first portion snus was called "Smokeless". It was flavored with whisky (an early ancestor of Probe). Smokeless was a resounding flop in Sweden and all the cans were pulled off the market within six months. It wasn't until Tre Ankare Portion Snus was successfully launched in 1977 that the history of portion snus really began.
The first mini portion snus; General Mini, appeared in 1984. Fourteen years later in 1998, the first white portion snuses; Catch Dry Eucalyptus and Catch Dry Lakrits were introduced. The first long and thin portion snus; Swedish Match Lab Series 0102, was released in the 4th quarter of 2009.
skruf Stark high nicotine snus was originally very popular in Norway and still is. Norwegian focus groups discovered that Norwegians liked more nicotine. To this day, the first two high nicotine and extra high nicotine snuses Swedish Match marketed as such were labeled Sterk and Ekstra Sterk. This is Norwegian for Strong and Extra Strong; Stark and Extra Stark. Later focus groups and Internet snus sales data also discovered Americans were high nicotine fans as well. Higher nicotine snus is also becoming more popular in Sweden with the under-40 snus crowd but not to nearly the extent it is in Norway or the US.
This caused the 2008/2009 race for the bragging rights over who made the highest nicotine snus on the market. Unfortunately, making the best tasting snus began taking a back seat to nicotine levels with some manufacturers. Swedish Match, skruf, and V2 high nicotine products were taste first; high nicotine only if it did not compromise the taste profile they were using. Today some other manufacturers make great tasting snuses which happen to be strong or extra strong in nicotine also. My personal favorite since the day it was released is the extra strong traditionally flavored General Ekstra Sterk Portion.
The important thing for 21st century snus users to remember is that the amount of free nicotine available in any snus is just one factor in choosing a Swedish snus. It is not the only factor and should be tailored to your personal nicotine needs and tolerances. Nicotine levels in Swedish/Scandinavian snus range from zero to 22mg/portion today. After taste and quality, your metabolism and reasons for using snus should dicatate your nicotine intake. There is no right or wrong universally. And never forget that like alcohol, too much nicotine at one time can be toxic. The point of both is not to intentionally begin puking or worse. It is to enjoy yourself.
Understanding Nicotine and Swedish Snus
The vast majority of Swedish and Scandinavian snus users in the US are former/occasional cigarette smokers, moist snuff and chew users, or those otherwise nicotine-addicted. Swedish snus is also popular among fine cigar smokers; not for the nicotine, but for the fine tobacco taste.
Today, Swedish snus comes in a variety of forms and strengths. Nicotine levels in Swedish/Scandinavian snus today can be generalized into the following groups:
- No Nicotine Snus: These products are portion snus without nicotine or tobacco. I reviewed a few a while back and to my surprise found some excellent tasting tobacco/nicotine-free snuses. These are perfect for people as part of a nicotine-cessation program or for chain snusers like me who are trying to break the habit of popping in a portion at bedtime.
- Low Nicotine Snus: Commonly found in mini portion snus, the nicotine levels are usually around 4mg/portion. There are also larger portion snuses and strong mini portions which contain 6mg to 7mg nicotine per portion.
- Regular Nicotine Snus: This would cover the 8mg to 9mg/portion offerings and a gram of loose snus not marked Strong or Extra Strong. There are also a few Strong Mini Portion snuses which contain 8mg/portion.
- High Nicotine Snus: These are the Strong/Stark/Sterk snuses. Depending on the manufacturer and the brand, nicotine levels range from 11mg/g to 13mg/g.
- Extra High Nicotine Snus: These are the Extra Strong/Extra Stark/Xtra Stark/Ekstra Sterk snuses. Basically, any snus above 14mg/portion can be said to be Extra Strong although some argue 15mg/portion is the starting point. Most of today's Extra Strong portion snuses are between 15mg/portion and 18 mg/portion. One new manufacture produces snus with 22mg of nicotine per portion.
When I switched from cigarettes to Swedish snus in 2007, I used primarily Regular Nicotine snus. That's all it took to break my cigarette addiction once and for all. I loved General Onyx but because of the taste; not the nicotine. It was a special occasion snus for me then and was my 2008 birthday present to myself.
Later, I went through a phase of primarily using Extra High Nicotine snuses but as a chain-snuser, my hands did begin to shake as the day progressed. I finally came to a happy medium using whichever strength nicotine snus I was in the mood for at the time; taste determining the snus of choice more than nicotine content. Among the snuses I've used the day I'm writing this article are Ettan portion, General Ekstra Sterk, Granit Special White, and Thunder Frosted. About the only mini portion snus I occasionally use is General Mini Mint. It is one of the few mini portion snuses which have enough flavor to satisfy my taste buds without having to use two at a time. It's a bedtime snus only for me because I do need more nicotine than that to satisfy my own addiction.
Nicotine, Snus and You
Which type of Swedish snus is the best suited for you? How much nicotine should you use? Loose or Portion snus? What type of portion? The answer to all of these is simply 'whatever you enjoy most at the time. There are no awards for hitting higher and higher nicotine benchmarks. Have fun experimenting; with over 140 choices, how can you not? If mini portions work best for you, then they are the best choice for you. If stuffing your lip with mega-clicks of skruf Xtra Stark Lös is your idea of a good time (and doesn't kill you), then go for it. Snus responsibly and trust your body. You'll find out which is your favorite snus and your favorite nicotine levels soon enough....until you try something else later.
Have fun and enjoy your REAL snus!
FORMER Smoker; CURRENT Swedish Snus User
Reporting for SnusCENTRAL.org