It’s hard out here for a smoker. In an ever health-conscious world of kale shakes and morning pilates, cigarettes seem more like a lifestyle throwback than the glowing beacons of cool once idolised in cinema, TV and advertising. Anti-smoking PSAs force users to confront horrific images of blackened lungs and cancerous tumors on a regular basis, and as more and more locations become smoke-free, the small band of stragglers lighting up outside bars and clubs is becoming even smaller. It’s no wonder that many users are choosing to opt out, with the number of American cigarette smokers dropping by 12.6% between 2009 and 2012. A growing number of unsatisfied consumers are searching for a replacement- the same hit without the bad breath or toxic smoke. That’s where the cigarette alternative movement comes in.
Smokeless alternatives like snuff and chewing tobacco have been around long before the advent of the cigarette itself, but the unappealing spitting caused by both products mean neither have caught on with urban tastemakers. Fast forward to 2003, when Chinese developer Hon Lik invented the e-cigarette. Unlike their mainstream counterparts, e-cigarettes don’t actually contain any tobacco. Instead, drawing on the so-called “vape pen” heats up a liquid nicotine solution, creating an inhalable steam.
Some consumers like e-cigarettes because of their cleanliness. They don’t leave a lasting smell, produce no ash and leave no butts once you’re done. As Ryan Sutton wrote for Eater, ‘e-cigarettes are about as disruptive to your sense of smell as half a squirt of cologne on your suit seven days after the squirt’. For those happy to leave cigarette mouth behind, e-cigs are a literal breath of fresh air. Other discerning customers like them because of their infinite customisability. If you’re willing to shell out for more than a $10 pack of disposables, you can mod practically every aspect of your vape, from the nicotine level to the intensity of the hit. A vibrant community of “vapers” has grown up around this modding culture- just check out Vapor Talk, a forum with advice and questions from thousands of American users. While high end vapes can cost up to $240, even the cheapest ones are incredibly economical. A 12 ml vial of liquid nicotine lasts as long as four packets of cigarettes and only costs $12.
It was only a matter of time before vapers developed dedicated spaces to enjoy their favorite brands. Vape bars have sprung up across the States, translating the URL community to an IRL experience. The most well known is probably the Henley Vaporium in Lower Manhattan, where vapers can sample almost 100 flavors of liquid, from banana nut bread to apple frost. The 1,700 square foot location was brought into reality by Talia Eisenberg, the co-founder of major e-cig purveyor Henley. “This was the perfect cause,” she told the New York Times.
But the Vaporium may soon be smoke-free. Local and state governments are looking to put a stop to the e-cig euphoria by banning them in enclosed public places. At the end of April, New York enacted a ban, with similar motions passing in Chicago and St Paul. At this point, consumers are looking for an alternative to the alternative.
A key product in the smokeless movement that’s unlikely to be banned anytime soon is Swedish snus. Despite being more popular than cigarettes in Sweden, snus is still an up and coming player in the American market. The small pouches of finely ground moist snuff have been around since the 18th Century, but only hit the Swedish mainstream in the ‘70s. Within a few decades, the number of male cigarette smokers in Sweden had dropped from 40% in 1976 to only 10% in 2011- less than half the number of male smokers in the US today.
Like American snuff and chewing tobacco, users dip snus in their mouths, but the byproduct can be swallowed, meaning no unattractive spitting. But best of all, snus fulfils the social aspects of smoking that many consumers fear will be lost with smokeless alternatives. Go to the hottest bars in Stockholm and you’ll see chic twentysomethings passing round snus’ signature packets. It’s a buzz that can be enjoyed wherever you are, whoever you’re with.
Swedish Match is the world’s largest producer of snus, and the Swedish brand you’re most likely to find in American stores. General Snus, their number one product, is most commonly available in the States, but unlike American snus brands it has moisture content. For the optimum experience, it’s best to stick to Swedish.
As more smokers migrate away from cigarettes, the smokeless alternative movement is becoming even stronger, but legislation is making some of these alternatives more and more difficult to use. Snus is one product you won’t have to worry about. While it may be hard out here for a smoker, life as a snus user couldn’t get any easier.
*This is a sponsored post.