Please Choose Your Language
A Brief History of Swedish Snus Snuff
According to archaeological discoveries, the use of tobacco dates to around the first century B.C. when the Mayas, a highly cultured people in Central America, smoked the tobacco leaf in sacred and religious ceremonies. Between 470 and 630 A. D. some of the Mayas began to move as far as the Mississippi Valley. The Toltecs, who created the mighty Aztec Empire, borrowed the smoking custom from the Mayas who remained behind. Two cases of smokers emerged among them. Those in the Court of Montezuma, who mingled tobacco with the resin of other leaves and smoked pipes with great ceremony after their evening meal; and the lesser Indians, who rolled tobacco leaves together to form a crude cigar.
The Mayas who settled in the Mississippi Valley spread their custom to the neighboring tribes. Theses tribes adapted tobacco smoking to their religion and begun to believe that their god, almighty Manitou revealed himself in the rising smoke. The Arawak Indians of the Amazon adapted tobacco to their religious rituals.
In 1492, while Christopher Columbus was exploring West Indies, he observed the Indians rolling leaves to form a cylinder, then lighting one end and inhaling the smoke from the other. As a friendly gesture, the Arawak Indians presented him with a gift of the aromatic leaves they prized so highly.
In 1943 Ramon Pan, a monk who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage gave lengthy descriptions about the custom of taking snuff. He also described how the Indians inhaled smoke through a Y-shaped tube. Inserting the two ends at the top of the tube into their nostrils, they placed the other end in the smoke rising from the burning leaves. The word "tobacco" was used to refer not to the herb, but to the tube through which the smoke was inhaled.
In 1499, the explorer Amerigo Vespucci noticed that the American Indians had a curious habit of chewing green leaves mixed with a white powder. They carried two gourds around their necks -- one filled with leaves, the other with powder. First, they put leaves in their mouths. Then, after dampening a small stick with saliva, they dipped it in the powder and mixed the powder with the leaves in their mouths, making a kind of chewing tobacco.
Jacques Cartier, on his second voyage to Canada in 1535, noted that he had seen the Indians smoking pipes. "In Hochelaga, at the head of the river in Canada, grows a certain herb which is stocked in large quantities by the natives during the summer season, and on which they set a great value. Men alone use it, and after drying it in the sun, they carry it around their neck wrapped up in the skin of a small animal, like a sac, with a hollow piece of stone or wood. When the spirit moves them, they pulverize this herb and place it at one end, lighting it with a firebrand, and draw on the other end so long that they fill their bodies with smoke until it comes out of their mouth and nostrils as from a chimney. They claim it keeps them warm and in good health. They never travel without this herb."
The newly arrived tobacco in Europe was treated as medicine. Jean Nicot was the French ambassador to Portugal in the 1560s. When he returned to Paris, he brought tobacco with him. He cured Queen Catherine de Medici's chronic headaches with a powder made of tobacco leaves. The French Court discovered snuff.
In 1638 one of the ships of Swedish Shipping Company, Söder Companies returned to Stockholm with tobacco from a journey to the Swedish colony at the mouth of the Delaware River. It was the initial import as well as the first introduction of tobacco in the Swedish market. Within a short period, tobacco became a major trade item and the farmers became curious to cultivate tobacco in Sweden.
In 1725 Jonas Alströmer, who was the first farmer, succeeded in planting of tobacco in Sweden. His plantation began to grow rapidly and reached to 35 000 plants within a few years and by 1732 it had grown to 130.000 plants. Tobacco became one of the most important products for Swedish economy and remained as a vital item all the way to the 19th century. The use of tobacco in various forms continued to grow and the authorities imposed a tobacco tax to control consumption of tobacco. Swedes had to pay tax for smoking according to social rank. Nobility, priests, and burghers had to pay a one-dealer silver to smoke and a 16 ore silver coin to use snuff. The tax for farmhands and maids was four ore. Soldiers, boatmen, and miners from Sala were exempt from tax.
In 1741 a law was introduced that prohibited everyone under the age 21 to smoke. Actually, this legislation indirectly accelerated the use of snuff in Sweden.
During the 1700s, inhaling of snus through nose was a fashion for Swedes. At the end of the 1700s, Swedes invented tucking snuff that is known today as oral snus. This type of oral snuff is used not only in Sweden, even in the USA, North and Central America, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.
Financial status played a vital role in favoring the use of oral snuff instead of nasal snuff. Snuff was considered as luxury products. So only the Aristocrats and Bourgeoisies could use snuff. But when the ordinary people found a new method of taking snuff by mouth, snuff became quickly popular and ousted more expensive chewing tobacco.
In 1822, Jacob Fredrik Ljunglof began manufacturing snus. Within a few years, he became a well-known snus producer. His trademark was known as Number One (Ettan).
Another brand known as General Snus was immerged as a general type of snus, i.e. a snus without its own brand. A recipe for a general snus was made based on available ingredients at the time.
Other old brands such as Roda Lacket from Norrkoping, Friskens Norrlandssnus from Hudiksvall, Prestsnus from Gothenburg and Stockholmssnus from Kockums in Malmo were also widely distributed.
In 1860 Jacob Fredrik's son Knut Ljunglöf (1833-1920) took over the business. Knut had inherited his father's passion for snus and the quality of the snus. He tested himself day's production before he allowed it to be sold. The invention of tinfoil was very favourable to marketing snus. Wrapped in tinfoil (a metal foil made of zinc or lead) was used to distribute snus even further from Stockholm. This boosted snus market significantly.
Pope Leo XII was One of Ljunglof's most prominent customers. Swedish emigrants in America were another vital customer for Ljunglof's snus. During the famine years, one-fourth of the Swedish population immigrated to America. Many emigrants started to produce snus using the commonly known method with the longer curing process. They copied names for their snus from their old homeland, but the taste for their snus was not like the Swedish type, and definitely not like Ljunglof's snus. Of the emigrants, distress bear the following words from the newspaper "Goteborgs-Posten" in the year 1869, some testimony: "The real trouble for the Swedes is that tolerable snus can't be bought for love or money."
The Ljunglof's snus was a monopoly in the market. There was only one producer in the USA in the beginning of the 20th century, which was little bit larger than Ljunglof. Ettan's rank was two in the world, with constantly growing sales. The death of Knut Ljunglof was a blow to the expansion of Swedish snus. The threat of a state tobacco monopoly became, with the outbreak of the First World War, reality. The profit from the tobacco industry was going to be used to build the Swedish pension fund. When the Swedish tobacco monopoly became a fact, Knut let his son, Robert, handle the redemption of the snus production.
In 1915 Ettan was thus nationalized, together with all other tobacco factories. The government's representative who evaluated the company was astounded to see such vast quantities of Virginia tobacco in a snus producers stock. But Robert Ljunglof answered with the obvious: Otherwise, it wouldn't be Ettan!
In 1914 Parliament decided to bring all the manufacture of tobacco products in Sweden under state monopoly. At the time of its introduction, the monopoly brought together an enormous variety of snuffs that included 103 different brands.
In 1919 almost 7.000 tons was consumed in Sweden this year. Divide this figure by the number of adult men at the time, i.e. 2 million, and you get an annual consumption of 3.5 kg (7 lbs.) per person. After 1919 consumption began to drop as the use of cigarettes increased. This change coincided with Sweden's change from an agricultural society to an industrial society.
The monopoly was broken up in 1961. The consumption of snus declined from 7.000 tons to 2.400 tons over a period of half a century. But in 1969 demand for snuff rose again following increasing publicity about the dangers of smoking.
In 1970 Swedish authority imposed certain criterion for snus production. Snuff is counted as foodstuff, which improved drastically the quality of snus to reduce the risk of illness related to snus used. The recopies for snus have modified according to food legislation. In 1973 the first portion snuff was introduced in Sweden.
In 2001 Gustavus is launched in Sweden - challenging the Swedish Match dominance
Currently, Sweden is the dominant supplier of snus in the Nordic market with about one million snuff users (or "snus" as it is called in Swedish). More than half of these are former smokers. Women account for slightly more than 10 percent of "snus" consumers.
Furthermore, snuff has strong traditions in Northern Europe, North America, Africa and some countries in Asia