Tobacco was introduced to the European community back in the 14th century after Christopher Columbus’ voyage to Haiti in 1492. The island natives supposedly greeted Columbus with gifts including valuable tobacco leaves. On a later expedition Christopher was accompanied by a monk named Romon Pane who witnessed a native priest inhale a ground powder through their noses; the idea of snuff and snus was born.
Throughout the 16th and 17th century (and even up until the 1950s) tobacco has been used as a treatment for a range of medical ailments. Most notably, snuff (inhaled ground tobacco) was recommended to Queen Catherine de Medici of France for relief of her chronic headaches. Soon the use of use snuff spread through the French aristocracy and other European court circles. By 1637 snuff had been adapted by adding water and salt producing a moist powder to be placed up into the lip named snus. The Swedes loved it and started planting tobacco plants around Skåne (Scania, the southern most and warmest county in Sweden) creating a huge tobacco industry in the 1700s.
Since then the use of snus in Sweden has been part of normal culture. Originally seen as a luxury or gift between social elites, the mainstream use really began after healthcare risks of smoking cigarettes became evident. People also say that since the 2005 indoor smoking ban the use of snus has increased with the alternative being to go outside and smoke, facing the cold winter’s air.
Snus and other oral smokeless tobacco products are banned for sale elsewhere in the European Union. Sweden was exempted from this law when it joined the EU in 1995, mainly due to the historical use but also the lobbying from the dominant snus industry producing around 6000 tonnes each year.
The continued sale of snus in Sweden and low smoking rates have led to Sweden claiming the lowest rate of tobacco-rated diseases in Europe. Sweden also has the worlds lowest rate of lung cancer in males. Good right?
But what are the health effects of snus and other smokeless products?
Find out in the third instalment of this series on snus…