Norwegian word of the day: Snus

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Norwegian word of the day: Snus
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash and Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

There are fewer things more Norwegian than snus, the small nicotine pouches found wedged under the lips of a lot of Norwegians.


Snus originally started out as a variant of snuff, finely ground or powdered tobacco leaves, which are snorted or sniffed into the nose.

Snus is Swedish in origin, and it has been popular in Sweden since at least the mid-1500s. Originally used by the upper classes, farmers began growing their own tobacco around the 1600s, and the practice became even more widespread after King Fredrik I encouraged Swedes to increase their tobacco production.

This homegrown snus was rolled together with salt and water into a ball and then placed under one’s lip. 

Nowadays, the word snus usually refers to the small pouches (porsjonssnus), as these are more popular, but it is still possible to buy loose snus (løssnus). 

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

Snus is similar to other tobacco products such as American-style dipping or chewing tobacco and Central Asian naswar, although snus is pasteurised and placed in the upper lip. These types of tobacco are placed in the lower lip and often cause increased saliva production, meaning users need to spit regularly.


It’s difficult to get hold of snus outside of Norway, Sweden and Denmark– it’s illegal throughout the rest of the EU, although tobacco-free snus is available in some countries. Fans of English football may be surprised to hear that usage of snus is apparently widespread among top players, with some players calling for it to be banned.

This may seem weird in Norway, where it is growing in popularity. In fact, while the proportion of young people smoking has fallen in recent decades, the number of those using snus has increased. 


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