Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What’s all the fuss over snus?

This week a friend of mine at work bought some Camel Snus to the office.

Naturally, I had to try some as I’d heard a bit about it and had listened to the questionable claims that it is safer than my beloved Red Seal Long Wintergreen (yeah, you bastards just go right ahead and judge me – I’m an Arkansan, dammit). I tried some of the stuff and figured it wasn’t too bad.

Camel is pushing this stuff hard, folks. A couple of friends of mine went to Rocklahoma last weekend (lucky bastards – I missed it again) and brought back a ton of smokeless tobacco samples for me. I ought to have a tee shirt -- “My friends went to Rocklahoma and all I got was a bunch of tobacco.”

Anyway, there were six tins of Camel Snus in the bag of loot my buddies scored for me. After doing some research, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have opinions about Camel Snus. I, of course, want to add yet another opinion to the rest of them out there. Because – well – why not?

What is ‘snus,’ anyway?

Snus is a big deal in Norway and Sweden and it is a snuff that’s different from American chewing tobacco in that there’s no need to spit when using it. It’s different from American chewing tobacco in that it’s not fermented, sugar generally isn’t added and it is steam cured rather than fire cured.

Apparently, fire curing tobacco builds up a heck of a lot of carcinogens, whereas a lot of that is avoided in steam curing. So, there are some people out there arguing that snus is a “safe tobacco” as it’s less dangerous than cigarettes, American chewing tobacco, etc.

I’m not buying it, folks. Anyone who thinks this stuff can’t cause cancer or rot your jaw out is living in a fool’s paradise. You can’t tell me that swallowing a bunch of snus juice rather than spitting it out doesn’t do some harm, either.

There’s a debate raging over the health impacts of snus, of course. As with most debates these days, the side with the most money to buy scientists who are willing to advance a certain point of view will win.

Is that Camel Snus any good?

Actually, it’s not bad at all. It comes in pouches and there are 15 of those per tin. The pouches are to be placed in the upper lip and stay flavorful for around 30 minutes (a conservative estimate, to be sure).

The two Camel flavors – frost and mellow – are both very sweet. The frost one tastes rather like a perverted mint variety of Life Savers while the mellow snus tastes like a sissified form of Levi Garrett or Red Man leaf tobacco.

The advantage here is that you don’t have to spit this stuff, so you can (in theory) enjoy it anywhere. Bring some snus along to the movies, the office, on a date, while you’re the best man in a wedding or during a job interview. Camel has no doubt noticed that there are smoking bans anywhere and folks who show up spitting Skoal all over the place are generally shunned.

Here in Arkansas, however, spit tobacco isn’t uncommon (there are  three men in my office and everyone of us is a tobacco cheBeAManwer). Seeing a spit bottle on someone’s desk isn’t exactly uncommon in this state, so the notion that snus can be “hidden” doesn’t go over as well here as it might in other parts of the country.

Besides, the little packets just plain bug me. They remind me of that rotten pouch tobacco that has never been overly popular around here.

Unlike those nasty pouch tobacco things, snus is actually quite flavorful and delivers a healthy (pun intended) dose of nicotine.

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve read quite a bit about snus in the past couple of days and have noticed there seems to be a bias against the Camel brand. Some folks don’t like the small quantity of snus delivered by Camel as compared to the “real” brands from Sweden. Others say the quality of the tobacco used by Camel is inferior and I’ve read that it doesn’t have much “bang for the buck” compared to other brands (15 packets per tin does seem a bit slight).

Those are all valid arguments, of course, but there is one bunch out there that should just shut up – the “snus snobs.” Yes, some folks talk about this Camel stuff like it’s a Chevrolet in a world full of Jaguars. We’re talking about tobacco, folks. Shoving snus is your head is never going to be sophisticated, folks. Quit acting like it is.

The final verdict

When all is said and done I rather like Camel Snus. It doesn’t deliver the same nicotine hit as my beloved Red Seal Long Cut Wintergreen, but it’s not bad at all.

Here’s the thing – it just doesn’t deliver that buzz-happy, slap to the face that comes with loose tobacco. And, I just can’t get over the whole spitless notion and the fact that this reminds me a lot of that Klugman limp-wristed pouch tobacco stuff. The pouches always seemed a bit sissified, you know?

“Be a man. Be a Klugman,” Zorak once said on Space Ghost Coast to Coast.

Some of that logic applies here. Who wouldn’t want to be manly like that gruff-but-loveable Jack Klugman?

Still, I figure I’ll buy some from time to time. It’s a change of pace, at least. and tastes pretty good. I’m curious to see whether Camel’s marketing attempts will be enough to make this product popular.


Dear AL said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dear AL said...

Jack Klugman "Oscar" has always been up there with Clint Eastwood.

Go ahead, laugh.

Most of my friends chew, just can't see myself shoving dry leafs into my mouth then spitting it into a Coke can.

They call me a wuss jokenly since I don't chew, but wonder why females prefer my desk. :D

Sherry at EX Marks the Spot said...

Sorry, Hawg, but my comment would have to be "yucky."

Sherry at EX Marks the Spot said...

Oh, one more thing. I remember when our state's legislative chambers were filled with spittoons.

The Natural State Hawg said...

Al -- Hey, Jack Klugman is great. I seriously enjoy old episodes of Quincy.

As for your insult-hurling friends, you can laugh at them all when they get lip cancer. Tobacco use is nasty, nasty, nasty. Those of us who are addicted to that stuff ought not cast stones...

Sherry -- Same here in Arkansas. Of course, we had the random fist fight or knife fight break out on the legislative floor in days past, too...

Denford said...

I thought I had heard it all.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I say. Since Jaw Cancer is already beckoning, why not swallow the stuff and laugh in the face of stomach cancer.

Is that how it is?

You never cease to amaze, Hawg.

The Natural State Hawg said...

Denford -- Ah, I do my best. You know, a lot of these tobacco products are just strange as can be. Snus is the latest in a long line of odd tobacco delivery systems. What I find very strange is that some people will swear this stuff is safe.

Really? Seriously? Why do I doubt that?