Harm Reduction

Snus culture history: Swedish emigration and modern evolution 

In the finale of our snus culture series, we trace the roots of how emigration facilitated the global spread of snus and its adaptation to the modern world. 

From the mid-19th to early 20th century, over a million Swedes emigrated to the United States, carrying the tradition of snus with them across the Atlantic. This mass movement was part of the larger European emigration driven by various factors, including economic hardships and social unrest. 

Snus goes global with Swedish emigration 

“Swedish immigrants were eager to preserve a piece of their heritage, and snus was an integral part of that,” Johanna, the museum coordinator at Stockholm’s Snus and Match Museum, shares.  

These settlers didn’t just bring their snus. They integrated their tradition with the burgeoning American tobacco scene, laying the groundwork for a cultural fusion that would resonate for generations. 

The Legacy of Ljunglöf

Knut Ljunglöf, often called the “Snus King,” was crucial in shaping snus culture. When he took over his family’s snus business in 1860, he standardized the production process. He made sure every batch of his brand, Ettan (which means number one) was of the highest quality. 

His dedication to excellence established Ettan as a leading name in snus and solidified his impact on the industry. “Ljunglöf’s influence reached far beyond just making snus. In many ways he defined snus culture,” Johanna says. 

Snus 1800-talet

Historical paper packaging for snus. Aristocrats had ornate snus boxes. The working class used simple cases.

The 1970s: a new snus era

The 1970s marked a turning point for snus. Innovations like portioned snus packets made it easier to use, broadening its appeal. “A game-changing innovation. Portioned snus redefined snus usage by making it widely accessible,” Johanna says.  

This decade also saw the rise of snus as a public health discussion topic. With increasing anti-smoking sentiment, snus emerged as a harm reduction alternative. 

Snus today after Swedish emigration, Ljunglöf and portioned snus 

Now, snus is part of Sweden’s cultural identity, crossing past gender and class lines. Its role has expanded globally, sparking discussions on health and attracting a diverse audience. Snus’s journey from royal courts to global presence is a story of tradition, migration, and innovation.

Transforming from a Swedish tradition to a global phenomenon, snus reflects the adaptability of cultural practices that can thrive amidst societal and policy changes.

Dive into snus culture history before the Swedish emigration

If you missed part 1 (Snus Culture History: Royal Courts to Working Hands) and part 2 (Snus Gender Norms of the 1800s) our snus culture series, make sure to read them to get even deeper insight into the cultural impact of snus.