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Sweden’s love of snus could be why the country is on course to be smoke-free

FILE - A man holds a box of snus (snuff), at a store in Stockholm, on Jan. 23, 2023. Sweden, which has the lowest rate of smoking in Europe is now close to declaring itself ???smoke free,??? defined as having less than 5% daily smokers in the population. Some experts give credit to decades of anti-smoking campaigns and legislation, while others point to the prevalence of ???snus,??? a smokeless tobacco product that???s illegal elsewhere in the European Union but is marketed in Sweden as an alternative to cigarettes. (Claudio Bresciani /TT News Agency via AP, File)
One in seven people in Sweden reportedly use snus (Picture: AP)

Sweden is on course to be the first smoke-free country in Europe and it may have something to do with their love affair with snus.

Snus, pronounced ‘snoos’, has been banned in the EU since 1992, but Sweden negotiated an exemption when it joined in 1995.

Today, one in seven people in the Nordic country reportedly use the smokeless nicotine product, which comes loose or in pouches and is placed between the upper lip and gum.

To be considered smoke-free, a country must have less than 5% smokers, and currently, only 5.2% of people in Sweden light up. This compares to 15% in 2005.

Swedish health minister Jakob Forssmed told AFP introducing a smoking ban in restaurants in 2005 and then at outdoor restaurants and public places in 2019 is a major factor behind the decline.

But he added: ‘Many Swedes also say that switching to snus helped them stop smoking.’

The government recently showed its support of the snus industry by cutting taxes on traditional snus by 20%, while raising the tax on cigarettes by 9%.

A picture taken on October 17, 2023 shows the Swedish Match production line of portion Snus, a smokeless tobacco product that is placed under the upper lip, in the company's factory in Gothenburg, Sweden. Sweden is poised to soon become Europe's first smoke-free country largely thanks to the popularity of snus, a sachet of moist tobacco or nicotine placed under the upper lip. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Viken KANTARCI (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Traditional brown snus containing tobacco on a Match in Sweden (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

Patrik Hildingsson, a spokesman for Swedish Match, the largest snus manufacturer in Scandinavia said: ‘We have used it for 200 years in Sweden. [It’s] part of Swedish culture, just like many other European countries have their wine culture.’

There are two types of snus, the traditional brown variant, which contains tobacco, and white snus, made of synthetic nicotine and often flavoured.

The latter has become very popular with younger people, much like flavoured vapes have in the UK.

Joel Fogelberg, 28, from Nässjö, Sweden, who recently quit snusing after more than a decade, told The Telegraph: ‘Apple, mint, peach, raspberry, cola… it tastes better now, so more people use it.’

He said smoking cigarettes was less appealing.

People have drinks at a rooftop bar as the skyline of the city is seen in Stockholm, on July 19, 2023. (Photo by ALI LORESTANI / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP) / Sweden OUT (Photo by ALI LORESTANI/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)
Smoking is banned both inside and outside at restaurants and public places in Sweden (Picture: TT News Agency/AFP via Getty)

‘It is a bit unfresh and a bit stinky,’ he explained. ‘And you have to go outside to do it.’

Some experts have thrown doubt on claims snus has helped reduce smoking levels in Sweden.

One, Lennartsdotter Ermann from the Swedish Cancer Society, who specialises in tobacco, says it’s a narrative pushed by the tobacco industry to improve sales of new nicotine products as cigarettes fall out of favour.

Meanwhile, Public Health Agency of Sweden said there are health risks associated with snus use.

It warns that snus can make it harder for a person’s blood vessels to dilate and increase blood pressure.

This picture taken on October 31, 2023 shows a man as he smokes a cigarette in Sundbyberg, near Stockholm. Sweden is poised to soon become Europe's first smoke-free country largely thanks to the popularity of snus, a sachet of moist tobacco or nicotine placed under the upper lip. (Photo by Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP) / TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Viken KANTARCI (Photo by JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Just over 5% of people in Sweden smoke (Picture: AFP)

Using the product can also lead to type 2 diabetes, it claims, while studies have shown links to oral cancer and cancers of the head and neck.

Linus Nilsson, from Lund, in Sweden, uses the white type and starts his day with a snus before breakfast.

He likes the fact it tastes like chewing gum and you can just stick it under your lip and easily carry on with whatever you’re doing.

Linus believes snus is better for you than smoking, but knows there are health risks and hopes to quit soon.

Snus has reportedly become popular with footballers here in the UK and Gary Linekar recently recalled crawling across the floor ‘like a snake’, naked, to the bathroom and vomiting everywhere after trying it in 2020. You’ve been warned.

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