Snus Basics

Tobacco first arrived in Sweden in the mid-1600s from New Sweden, the country's short-lived colony in modern day Delaware. It wasn't long after that snus was invented as a way to bring snuff to the masses. Necessity was the mother of snus's invention, as tobacco was prohibitively expensive for most Swedes. Playing second fiddle to the world's colonial powers, Sweden found itself with less buying power in tobacco commodities markets, resulting in high prices for the import. Sweden was also one of the first nations to tax tobacco as a luxury product. Snus, which mixes cheaper tobacco with salt and water, was introduced as an affordable -- and, without spit, cleaner -- form of snuff.

To make snus, the tobacco leaves are first cut into small strips, air- and sun-dried, and then ground into a powder. The ground tobacco is then treated with heat for 24 to 36 hours, reaching temperatures of around 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius).

A "wet" snuff, snus tobacco contains 50 percent water and 30 percent tobacco. It's usually sold in tea bag-shaped portions that the user bundles under his or her upper lip. A heavy snus user may consume the product for 13 to 15 hours a day. With high levels of salt, moist oral snuff produces less saliva than dipping or chewing tobaccos like Skoal, Copenhagen or Red Man, and the saliva byproduct is meant to be swallowed.

The finished tobacco product is chilled below room temperature to keep its contents fresh. Expect to find American tobacconists installing refrigerators if they carry snus.