You Snus, You Lose

My grandfather had a pronounced Norwegian accent, and only two fingers on his right hand. The former was thanks to parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Norway, and the latter was due to an unfortunate accident brushing away sawdust when he worked in a sawmill. He was also the only person I ever knew who used ‘snus’, which my mother disparaged as a filthy habit.

Snus, which is pronounced ‘snoose’, is a powdered tobacco. It was originally made and used in Norway and Sweden, which accounts for my grandfather using it. It either comes in a small packet, or it’s formed into a ball, then tucked under the user’s lip. However, unlike chewing tobacco, there’s no need to spit periodically.

You should know this because R.J. Reynolds is been test-marketing “Camel Snus” in Portland. This is a product that makes perfect sense, from the point of view of a tobacco company. Anti-smoking laws are becoming more prevalent and ever more draconian, and the stigma of chewing tobacco, with the ever-present ‘spit cup’, hardly makes it a suitable substitute. Snus would seem to be a perfect solution.

There are only two drawbacks.

First, it doesn’t take a genius to see what a boon snus would be to underage users. Heck, you could sit in class with some in your mouth, and no one would be the wiser. At least when I was in high school, you had the telltale clumps of ‘chaw’ in the water fountains to betray the tobacco user, or at least the worn white rings in the back pocket of your jeans. You could probably hide this stuff from teachers and parents pretty easily.

Second, although smokeless tobacco saves you from some of the risk of heart disease and lung cancer, plenty of smokeless tobacco users out there have developed cancer of the mouth or throat, and have had large chunks of their jaws and tongues removed as a result. But that’s a hard image to sell to sixteen-year-olds, who are pretty sure that they’re immortal.

On the one hand, I’d rather have snus users than smokers around me, because the impact on my nose and on my health would be dramatically decreased. But I think this is a case of a choice of two evils, and I’m not really sure it’s the lessor. In any event, I think parents should know that this stuff is now available in the area.

1 Comment so far

  1. jonashpdx (unregistered) on January 8th, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

    i’ve seen those ads and had wonderered what the hell a snu was. thanks for clearing that up. on a side note, one of my first jobs was at a movie theater and one of the most disgusting parts of the job (yes, there were many disgusting parts) were picking up the spit-in cups full of chew-spit without getting any of the always-nearly-full spit to spill on you. heaven forbid if you tripped on one in the dark and got chewspit all over your shoe…

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