Two popular types of smokeless tobacco on today’s c-store shelves are snuff and snus (rhymes with goose). Both are usually packaged in a small round “tin” or “can,” with plastic replacing the metal of old. So what’s the difference?
Don’t fret. It’s easy to be confused by the terminology. In fact, “snus” is the Swedish translation for the word “snuff” and hearkens back to tobacco’s introduction to Scandinavia in the 16th century when dried tobacco was taken through the nose. That’s nasal snuff – also termed dry snuff. Things have evolved in the intervening centuries.
In today’s tobacco parlance, snuff is finely ground dipping tobacco, also called “moist” by the industry. Snuff is loose tobacco. A small amount is “pinched” from the tin and placed in the mouth between the lower lip and gum. Snuff users spit the “juice,” or excess saliva, generated by the tobacco’s flavor.
Snus is also finely ground but is enclosed in a small, teabag-like pouch which is inserted between the upper lip and gum. It is also referred to as “spitless” tobacco because it typically doesn’t generate a lot of saliva, so instead of spitting any excess, the consumer simply swallows it. This also makes snus a more discreet smokeless product because there is no need for a spit receptacle.
Both snuff and snus makers customarily add flavors to their product. Mint and wintergreen are probably the most popular, but some varieties also come in fruit flavors like cherry, banana, grape and others. There are even alcohol flavors like bourbon and rum.
American snus makers are apt to add stronger flavoring. Swedish snus makers add flavors, but the natural tobacco flavor typically has a heavier presence.
Snuff is fermented during the curing process. Snus, on the other hand, is steam pasteurized to eliminate impurities and keep it fresh. Snus must be refrigerated to maintain that freshness. A tin of snus has about a 30-day shelf life, after which it’ll begin to lose its moisture and flavor.
Because of its water content, snuff can spoil, too. It should keep for a couple of weeks at room-temperature, but refrigeration is recommended for longer periods. If you stock up, either snuff or snus can be frozen for about a year. If in a cardboard tin, you’ll want to thaw in the refrigerator to prevent condensation mixing with the packaging glue and tobacco.