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Laos: Welcome to the land of "snus"

Tobacco dip finds an unlikely home in Southeast Asia.

“It’s living material,” he says. “In production, you have to give it time. You cannot stress or speed up the snus. The snus must rest.”

Like Pioneer Snus, Andersson’s Viking Snus operation was born from fears of running out of snus in Thailand or having his stash tossed by customs agents. A large shipment from Sweden was once confiscated by officials, who instead sent a note explaining he could recover his snus once he proved it was not poisonous.

“I felt like a man fighting a windmill,” he says.

Andersson was legally cleared to sell Viking Snus only after promising to use only Thai tobacco, right down to the seed.

He is convinced the market in Bangkok could explode if he were allowed to advertise his product. But Thai tobacco advertising laws are notoriously strict, forbidding billboards, radio spots and even actors puffing on television. Movie stars’ faces are blurred when a cigarette hits their lips.

Given legal restrictions, and regional oblivion to the product, pressuring locals to take up snus is a battle neither man foresees winning.

Vichit, Svensson’s Laotian snus-making assistant, will not even sample his own creation.

“I’ll smoke cigarettes occasionally,” Vichit says. “But this stuff? Never tried it.”