What is the mechanism behind the action of chewing snus?

Understanding the Mechanism Behind Chewing Snus

Chewing snus is a popular practice in Scandinavian countries, and it involves placing a small pouch of moist tobacco between the lip and gum. While some people may think that chewing snus is similar to smoking, it actually has a different mechanism of action. Chewing snus involves the absorption of nicotine through the mucous membranes of the mouth, which leads to a rapid uptake of the substance into the bloodstream. In this article, we will explore the chemical composition of snus, the process of absorption by the mouth, the role of saliva, and the effects of alkaloids, baking soda, and salt on snus chewing.

What is Snus?

Snus is a smokeless tobacco product that is popular in Scandinavian countries. It is made from ground tobacco leaves, water, salt, and baking soda, which are mixed together to form a moist powder. The powder is then placed into small, teabag-like pouches, which are inserted between the upper lip and gum for extended periods of time. Unlike other smokeless tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco or dip, snus is not meant to be chewed or spit out. Instead, it is designed to be left in the mouth, where it slowly releases nicotine into the bloodstream. This makes it a discreet and convenient way to use tobacco without the need for smoking or spitting.

The Chemical Composition of Snus

The chemical composition of snus can vary depending on the brand and type, but it typically contains about 50% water, 25-30% tobacco, and 20-25% salt and baking soda. The water and salt help to keep the tobacco moist, while the baking soda helps to balance the pH of the mixture. In addition to these ingredients, snus also contains alkaloids, which are naturally occurring compounds found in tobacco. The main alkaloids in snus are nicotine, which is responsible for the addictive properties of the product, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), which are carcinogenic and can cause cancer.

The Process of Absorption by the Mouth

When a pouch of snus is placed between the lip and gum, the nicotine and other compounds in the mixture begin to dissolve and release into the saliva. The mucous membranes of the mouth, which are highly vascularized, rapidly absorb the nicotine and other compounds, allowing them to enter the bloodstream. The amount of nicotine absorbed depends on factors such as the concentration of nicotine in the mixture, the duration of use, and individual factors such as the pH of the mouth and the amount of saliva produced.

The Role of Saliva in Snus Chewing

Saliva plays an important role in snus chewing because it helps to dissolve the ingredients in the pouch and facilitate absorption by the mouth. The pH of the saliva can also affect the absorption of nicotine, with more alkaline saliva leading to increased absorption. The amount of saliva produced can also impact the duration of use, as a lack of saliva can cause the snus pouch to become dry and uncomfortable.

The Effects of Alkaloids in Snus

The alkaloids in snus, such as nicotine and TSNAs, can have a range of effects on the body. Nicotine acts as a stimulant, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. It also stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, which produces feelings of pleasure and reward. However, long-term use of nicotine can lead to addiction, as well as a range of health problems such as increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. TSNAs, on the other hand, are carcinogenic and can cause cancer of the mouth, throat, and pancreas.

The Role of Baking Soda

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is added to snus to help balance the pH of the mixture. This is important because the natural pH of tobacco is acidic, which can cause irritation and discomfort in the mouth. By adding baking soda, the pH of the mixture is raised, making it less acidic and more comfortable to use.

The Role of Salt in Snus Chewing

Salt is an important ingredient in snus because it helps to keep the tobacco moist and enhances the flavor of the product. Salt also helps to stimulate the production of saliva, which can improve absorption by the mouth.

The Effect of pH on Snus Chewing

The pH of the mouth can affect the absorption of nicotine in snus. A more alkaline pH can lead to increased absorption, while a more acidic pH can decrease absorption. The pH of the snus mixture can also impact absorption, with a higher pH leading to increased absorption.

How the Body Responds to Chewing Snus

When snus is chewed, the nicotine and other compounds are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, leading to a range of effects on the body. These can include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, as well as feelings of pleasure and reward. However, long-term use of snus can lead to addiction, as well as a range of health problems such as increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

The Connection Between Snus and Nicotine Addiction

Snus is a highly addictive product due to its high concentration of nicotine. When used long-term, snus can lead to addiction, as the brain becomes dependent on the dopamine release produced by nicotine. Nicotine addiction can be difficult to overcome, and often requires professional help and support.

Managing the Risks of Chewing Snus

Chewing snus carries a range of health risks, including addiction, cancer, and other health problems. To manage these risks, it is important to use snus in moderation and to be aware of the potential health consequences. If you are concerned about your use of snus, or if you are experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, or other health problems, it is important to seek medical attention. With proper management and care, it is possible to use snus safely and without significant health consequences.

Photo of author

Anna Staropoli

Anna Staropoli is a versatile reporter with a passion for exploring the intersections of travel, food, wine, commercial real estate, ESG, and climate change. From interviewing Miami’s mayor in Buenos Aires about flood resilience to delving into the adaptability of puppeteers’ art in Palermo, Sicily, Anna’s work embraces diverse topics that reveal unexpected connections.

Leave a Comment