More tobacco companies are preparing to join the American so-called snus arena and I have little doubt their motives and methods will not differ from Camel SNUS and Marlboro snus. The stakes are high: 46 million American Cigarette Smokers PLUS the American Smokeless Tobacco Users.
This is a Three Part Series; not because the information is hard to understand. To the contrary, it's TOO easy to understand.
But you must see the entire picture to understand the fraud that is being perpetrated on American Tobacco users, especially cigarette smokers, by Big Tobacco....and why the US Federal and State Governments are not only allowing this outrage, but intentionally not interfering and secretly aiding it.
It's the scandal no one will talk about. I'm not only going to talk about it, I'm going to spell it out step by step because one of the two ultimate goals is to BAN CIGARETTES within the next 5 to 7 years.
PART 1: Altria and Philip Morris USA ..........
QUESTION:When is snus NOTsnus? ANSWER:When it's Marlboro snus.
I don't know what Philip Morris USA was or is thinking. I REALLY don't.
The billboard in the picture above left should read "NOT CIGS, NOT DIP, NOT SNUS". In fact, I almost entitled this series "The Philip Morris Snus Mystery".
I've done an enormous amount of research and spent an equally enormous amount of time trying to sort out the logic of Altria's and Philip Morris USA's approach to snus: both tactical and strategic. It was an interesting study but left more unanswered questions than it did in supplying answers.
One of the reasons Marlboro Snus and, to a slightly lesser degree, its RJRT rival Camel SNUS has gotten away with, and even become popular in the test Cities and States where they've been introduced is that, before 2006, almost the entire American public; tobacco using or non-tobacco using, had never heard of snus.
Oral tobacco in America was considered by the overwhelming majority of people to be what is commonly referred to as "chew" or "dip". It was associated with cowboys and in certain regions like the North East, seen more on old western movies then in real life.
An oral tobacco that required no spitting was revolutionary in the US and snus was generally considered not to be a new brand of oral tobacco, but an entirely new product just invented in 2006 by Philip Morris USA and RJR Tobacco. American technology revolutionizes the world again!
So before we go further into the mystery of Philip Morris USA and Marlboro and later into RJR Tobacco and Camel SNUS, let’s pull down the curtain and review the truth about REAL snus.
Real snus is not a new product: it was developed in Sweden over 200 years ago by farmers. They found they could be more productive by keeping the tobacco in their mouth and using both hands for work...Swedish chewing tobacco, if you will. There were some logistical problems encountered with this method, however. Swedish tobacco had a tendency to crumble when twisted or rolled.
Sometime around the early 1800s, Swedes overcame this by grinding the tobacco into a fine powder and mixing it with water, salt and flavorings such as spices and even wine or spirits. The resulting product was not sniffed, smoked or chewed, but being moist or semi-moist, was shaped into a small "pinch" and placed behind the upper lip.
By using different spices and seasonings, new recipes and flavors were constantly being developed. Some are still used to this day, creating the foundations of true Swedish Snus and true Snus.
But the most important element, the actual manufacturing process, is what makes Swedish snus so popular, reduced harm, yet controversial today. Swedish snus is regulated as a food product by the Swedish version of the US Food and Drug Administration.
In order to meet Government food safety regulations, Swedish Snus is pasteurized in a proprietary heat treatment process. It is well known there are carcinogenic by-products and harmful micro-organisms inherent in tobacco. These are generally known as tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNA).
By requiring this unique pasteurization process, Swedish Snus is rendered virtually TSNA-free. For all practical purposes, there are no carcinogens! But since there are no absolutes in today's litigious society, the term "reduced harm tobacco" was coined. And it only applies automatically to Snus made to Swedish Government standards and inspections. It does NOT apply to ANY American Snus's beyond the fact there is no tar because "snus" is not burned and inhaled.
In the United States, the FDA does not regulate, set standards, require contents disclosures or certify any form of smokeless tobacco. Personally I'm not a big fan of Governments becoming too involved in the private sector. The FDA is so over-burdened with mandates regulating food, prescription and non prescrption drugs, meat, among others Congress throws at them without providing the staffing or funding to perform even those duties fully and correctly, adding smokeless tobacco would not ensure they had the time or expertise....or motives, to properly insure American Snus is truly as reduced harm as possible.
Big US Tobacco is taking advantage of this and the US Federal and State governments are only concerned about tobacco from a tax revenue and voter perspective. But lets get back to the story of real snus invented in Sweden.
Snus did not catch on in Sweden, especially among the middle and upper classes, for quite some time. Smoking was still the most popular method of using tobacco in Sweden until the 1960's when the potentially serious health risks associated with smoking tobacco became widely publicized.
Then the increase in Swedish Snus sales started, cigarette use among Swedish men declined, and the health studies began.
Since Part 1 and 2 of this series is really focused on Philip Morris USA and their snus strategy, I'm going to leave those interested with some links to web sites containing these studies and two brief synopsises.
This link is to For Smokers Only, a web site of Professor Brad Rodu, Professor of Medicine Endowed Chair, Tobacco Harm Reduction Research University of Louisville.
Professor Rodu, a published author on Swedish Snus, who has testified before Congress on tobacco issues, has on his web site a compilation of almost every major study ever done on Swedish Snus. SnusCENTRAL.org links to many of Professor Rodu's studies in our THE FACTS section under Snus Resources.
He also outlines his program for using Swedish Snus as a way to stop smoking or as a much safer alternative for nicotine addicts and tobacco taste lovers, and more. I include also the below study from another source because I must note Professor Rudu's research is partially sponsored by smokeless tobacco companies. That does not invalidate his collection of studies or his own research, but I wanted to address it before the "we told you so" comments and emails started appearing. And his website clearly states: "IMPORTANT NOTE: Members of the research group have no personal conflict of interest with regard to the tobacco industry."
Especially since For Smokers Only primarily endorses a program for smokers to quit ALL tobacco products through the use of Swedish Snus, I would say the above quote more than speaks for itself.
But from another source, a collection of long-term studies of Swedish Males over the last 15 years have concluded:
Among adult males, Sweden has:
- Europe’s highest per capita consumption of smokeless tobacco
- Lowest cigarette consumption in Europe
- Lowest lung cancer mortality rate in Europe
- Among the lowest oral cancer mortality rate in Europe
- Lowest percentage of smoking-related deaths among developed countries
- Total tobacco consumption similar to neighboring countries (Norway, Denmark and Finland)
Professor Rodu is even more emphatic on his web site. He states in referring to Swedish Snus:
-Smoking efficiently delivers nicotine, an addictive drug producing many pleasurable effects. But nicotine does not cause cancer, heart attacks or emphysema. Those illnesses are caused by the other 3000 products of tobacco combustion.
-Smokeless tobacco delivers nicotine, but without the smoky delivery system. Thus, use of smokeless tobacco is 98% safer than smoking.
-Finally, modern smokeless tobacco products can be used invisibly anytime and anywhere, much like a breath mint.
SnusCENTRAL.org maintains these and many other Tobacco and Snus Studies and Resources for you in our THE FACTS section under Snus Resourses.
But before we cross the pond back to America and Philip Morris USA, there is A CRITICALLY IMPORTANT POINT I have to make VERY CLEAR about SWEDISH SNUS before we continue:
I and most others constantly refer back to Swedish Snus as a comparison not simply because snus was invented in Sweden. There is value in that and it's an interesting historical note. It also led Sweden to drive snus development and production over the past few centuries.
But remember, the middle and upper-class gentlemen of Sweden looked down on snus for many years. It's impact only really became global in the 1960's when cigarettes were "suddenly" discovered to have serious potential health risks.
And as China routinely demonstrates when it comes to electronics and intellectual property, if you have no respect for patents, anything can be reverse-engineered.
Other Scandinavian countries, and now countries from Russia to Africa to Asia to (how embarrassing) the United States now manufacture "snus". Some are quite good, some are.....American. Many of the others are downright dangerous.
But SWEDEN has been and most likely will always be the Gold Standard of Snus that all others will be compared to:
NOT just for taste....other countries make some very good-tasting snus's, but for STRICT, Government-Enforced QUALITY CONTROL and a Swedish Industry-wide COMMITMENT to constantly improve the manufacturing process and even go beyond Swedish Government Requirements by establishing their own strict industry INTERNAL QUALITY STANDARDS.
- Only Swedish Snus is regulated by the Government as a Food Product.
- Only Swedish Snus is Required to be pasteurized in a proven proprietary heat treatment process.
- And led by Swedish Match, the largest producer of Swedish Snus, a self-regulation quality control standard called GothiaTek® has been developed.
As Marlboro "snus" so clearly demonstrates, the word "snus" is not copyrighted and the snus manufacturing process is not patented or standardized. Pretty much any spit-less tobacco product (I really hate using the word "spit-less") can be marketed as "snus".
In order to prevent the perversion and creation of cheap inferior products labeled "snus" (like Tobaka or Marlboro snus) to negatively affect the consumer-perception and sale of Swedish Snus, the Swedish GothiaTek®. standard was proactively created. A snus brand must meet certain and very specific high standards to be certified Swedish GothiaTek®.
The goal, like the EnergyStar® certification for appliances and new homes in America, is to give the consumer a level of comfort that what they are purchasing meets certain standards. While GothiaTek® is proprietary to Swedish Match brands currently, I would not be surprised to see that or a version of it expanded in the future to protect the reputation of Swedish snus in general.
Now back to Philip Morris USA! (Finally!) Actually, not quite yet. When I read this article after posting it, I realized that, as fascinating reading as it was, Part One was just TOO much to absorb at once!
So upon reflection, I've decided to change this from a Two part to a Three part series.
PART ONE sets the stage by giving you a taste for why the disappointment, embarrassment as an American, and utter confusion as to what Philip Morris USA could possibly be thinking with their two pathetic attempts at producing snus in the United States.
It does so by telling the story of Swedish Snus's centuries-long historical roots as the inventor of Snus and the undisputed Gold Standard by which all other snus; including Marlboro and Camel, should be judged. Most importantly, it gives the fact-based answers as to why.
Armed with the knowledge and facts of Part One, you too can join in the Fun and Mystery of Tobaka snus, Marlboro snus and Philip Morris USA.
PART TWO will focus VERY clearly on Philip Morris USA, their abuse and fleecing of the American Public, especially those new to snus, and leave you with a cliff-hanger that makes their Marlboro snus product such an absolute mystery and abomination.
PART THREE will look at the most aggressive of the American "snus" manufacturers, Reynolds America, their Camel SNUS product, their VERY clever marketing strategy; how they are taking advantage of the American cigarette smoker's lack of real snus knowledge in an attempt to deliberately confuse Swedish snus with all other "snus", and especially the interesting way it plays into the mystery of Marlboro snus.
And lastly,PART THREE will offer an answer to the BIGGEST MYSTERY of all: Why are Philip Morris USA and RJ Reynolds taking such a low road with their snus-like products when they not only don't have to, but know better? Sadly, you've probably figured out that one already.
So hang in there: it's worth the read! Besides, mysteries are more intriguing once the stage has been set!
The Snus Guru
July 7th, 2008