What is snus and why do so many Norwegians use it? 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
What is snus and why do so many Norwegians use it? 
A tub of snus. Photo by Lisa Risager/ Flickr

If you spend any amount of time in Norway, you’re likely to come across snus, but what is it and why is it more popular among Norwegians than another common habit? 


In Norway, more people use snus daily than smoke everyday, according to a report from Statistics Norway released in May.

“The proportion who smoke daily in Norway has fallen considerably in recent years, but the use of snus is still very widespread,” Statistics Norway said in the report. 

Less than 10 percent of people in Norway now smoke daily, while 13 percent use snus on a daily basis. 

Snus is a moist, powdered tobacco, which originated in Sweden in the 1800s. Tobacco had been in Sweden since the 1600s, having arrived from New Sweden, the country's short-lived colony in Delaware, the United States.

However, as tobacco was so expensive in the country, due to Sweden not having much power in the tobacco commodities market compared to the colonial powers of the time, there was a need for a cheaper tobacco product. Thus snus was introduced as a more affordable, alternative form of snuff.

The smokeless tobacco product then made its way to Norway in the late 1800s as Norway was in union with Sweden at the time. 

Snus typically comes as a moist powder or in small bags that are placed between the top lip and the gum. However, unlike snuff, spitting isn't required.


It has become increasingly popular among young people.

More than a quarter of those born in the 1990’s use snus every day compared to just three percent of people the same age who smoke. 

“The increase in the number of young people using snus can be linked to the decline in smoking among people in the same age group,” Statistics Norway’s report said. 

The sale of snus is illegal in all EU countries except Sweden, Estonia, Hungry and Denmark, as Norway is not a member of the EU the sale of snus is legal.

READ MORE: Snus is now more popular than smoking in Norway 

Snus, like all tobacco products in Norway, comes in plain packaging with no branding or logos. Snus is sold in small tubs with little bags containing the snus inside. 

Why is snus more popular than cigarettes?

There are a few reasons why snus is more popular than cigarettes in Norway.

"Snus is more popular with young people than smoking. Some explanation may be that snus does not smell as much as smoke, it doesn't harm anyone but oneself, and there are many flavours to choose from," according to information site for young people


Additionally, snus can be discreetly used in public spaces such as bars and restaurants, making it more convenient than smoking for many, especially given how cold Norway can get during the winter.

Also, snus is cheaper than smoking, with a tub of snus costing around 80 kroner, compared to 140 kroner for a box of 20 cigarettes. 

Like all tobacco products, snus also increases the risk of health problems, however not to the same extent as smoking.

Snus still contains carcinogens, however, and increases the risk of cancer of the oesophagus and pancreas. Snus may also increase the risk of stomach and rectum cancer, according to

Snus also causes gum disease and receding gums, and like all tobacco products, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

In numbers



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