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Report from Abroad: Chewing Tobacco and Sports in Europe; Snus in Sports

First off, I would love to congratulate Blake on his recent renewal of the beloved ODC. Second, I would like to say that I’m currently going to school in England, which has been a bit of a weird experience sports-wise. Out are the days of constant hockey, baseball, football, and basketball coverage. My sporting life in now dominated by watching obscure football (soccer) highlights on BBC or Sky Sports in a local pub.

Aside from leaving me with no viable sport to play here in a team setting (I’m big on baseball), it has also given me some insight and a new perspective on sports that don’t make too much noise in North America. As such, I hope to produce a few reports on the main cultural differences in sporting experience from a Canadian fan’s perspective.

The first topic is very dear to my heart…the extreme lack of chewing tobacco in European sporting experiences.

As a massive baseball fan and lifelong player, I have always enjoyed dip or chew in all of its forms. However, I was shocked to find that it is illegal in the UK and most European countries, which also meant I had to import (smuggle) copious amounts over international borders. While this was troublesome at first, I was provided with a little Euro-knowledge by some Scandinavian coursemates.

Fact: In Sweden and Norway, 25% of the population consume chewing tobacco, often in a sporting situation. But how, you ask. Well…

Scandinavian chewing tobacco is called Snus, and is a far cry from the Skoal North American baseball players know and love. It is a finer, moister (yes, moister) mixture that involves hand packing and top lip placement. Odd, yes; however, the potent potable has been a hit among Northern Europeans, prevalent especially among hockey players. I picture Saku Koivu or Mats Sundin or (insert generic Scandinavian hockey player name here) flying around (fantastic skaters) with a huge snus/dip protruding from their upper lip. To me, it’s bizarre. To the Scandinavians, it’s deeply entrenched in sporting culture.

* Looks like you’re wearing a mouthguard
* Substitute for Skoal in Europe
* No spitting

* Tastes like sand
* Difficult to pack

Overall, my analysis, which is of course extremely biased, tends to lean towards Skoal as a preferred sporting tobacco. Snus seems far too difficult to toss in on the fly, and its lack of flavor would make even the most exciting Finnish hockey game (on international ice, of course) seem dry. As upsetting as this lack of a baseball-esque chewing tobacco culture in England is, sometimes you just have to settle for second best (insert terrible Arizona Cardinals joke here).

To conclude, while it is a big part of Scandinavian sports, I’m not completely sold on the concept. Europeans are clearly big on smoking, which does not necessarily flow too well with soccer or rugby, so I doubt any smoking-sports connection in Europe exists. I could see some rebellious cricket players hacking a pack of darts at tea time though (realistically they do actually stop for tea).  However, some international stars are deep into snus. Here’s a list of ‘famous’ people who snus on a regular basis.

I have no idea how this list was formulated, and frankly seriously doubt some of it. But note the appearance of Ovechkin on the list. Could this be the beginning of a North American hockey trend? Players snus-ing to emulate their favorite dangle machine? While this may be a dubious claim, we could be at the beginning of a world-wide snus sporting takeover. Or not.

Cheers from England!

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2 Responses to “Report from Abroad: Chewing Tobacco and Sports in Europe; Snus in Sports”

  1. AJ Says:

    Don’t miss out on the opportunity to watch some nordic skiing on Eurosport!

  2. Blake Murphy Says:

    Really enjoyed this (and miss you). I can’t claim to be a Skoal-user, but I vicariously feel your pain 9and rotting gums). Next update from abroad - what’s worse, nothing but hockey highlights or nothing but soccer highlights?

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