Tanking Tobacco Firms Turn to Swedish "Snus"

By Will Godfrey 07/28/11

Big Tobacco tries to evade smoking bans with new, health-conscious "green" brands.

Sweden's Snus: Not available at Ikea Photo via

Faced with growing concern over smoking health risks and ever-spreading smoking bans, Big Tobacco is looking for kinder, friendlier ways to repackage itself. The troubled industry may have scored with a product known as "snus" a moist, sticky tobacco powder of 19th-century Swedish origin that's apparently soaring in popularity across North America. Rather than smoking or chewing tobacco, suns alloto you to simply stick a pellet under your upper lip to absorb your nicotine fix. Sweden has the lowest smoking rate in Europe thanks to the growing popularity of snus, which causes fewer health problems than smoking—but is still linked to high blood pressure and pancreatic cancer, not to mention the kind of brown drool that could ruin many a romantic moment. If snus, manufactured by Swedish Match, should fail to conquer the world, Plan B may be to win friends—and addicts—by turning green. Since March, ads for Natural American Spirit Cigarettes have appeared in numerous magazines, boasting of "additive-free" organic tobacco and even advertising their cigarettes as "eco-friendly." It turns out that what "eco-friendly" means here is that manufacturer Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co happens to have wind-powered facilities and staff who drive hybrid cars. The company's hopes of quietly greenwashing its wares may have been dashed, as anti-smoking campaigners complain that such language gives the misleading impression of a safer smoke, and call for more disclaimers to be made mandatory.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of Substance.com, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.