White snus sees significant sales growth since introduction last year

White snus for sale in Estonia.
White snus for sale in Estonia. Source: ERR

Excise revenue from white snus has grown by 25 percent on year, to €753,000, in the first quarter of 2020 (Q1 2020), pointing to a significant growth in its consumption. This growth has also contributed to a decline of illicit sales of regular snus, which so far as the European Union goes is legal for sale only in Sweden.

White snus, tobacco-free nicotine pads usually inserted under the top lip for maximum effect, differs from regular snus (not to be confused with snuff, a dry powder snorted into the nasal cavity-ed.) in being both tobacco-free and not moistened during its production process, was first introduced to the Estonian market last year.

Through 2019, total excise receipts from white snus came to €893,000, a figure not far from being met in Q1 2020. Total excise receipts since the product came on sale come to €1.6 million.

Peter Puks, board member at Foxtrot Uniform Capital OÜ, among the first to introduce white snus for sale in Estonia, sales consumer interest is also showing a constant growth trend, despite the pandemic.

"It seems to have been growing even more during the crisis. We mainly sell at Circle K and Olerex [fuel station] chains; people during the crisis have [however] opted to go to convenience stores to buy snus portions. In general, we are seeing that people are also trying to quit smoking. This is a good starting point for quitting, "said Puks.

Sweden is the only country in the EU where snus containing tobacco is legal for sale.

Companies originally started selling white snus online, but this was banned on June 1 last year, after which it appeared in filling stations, kiosks and other stores.

The average price of a box of white snus is €6-8, ERR reports.

Teet Mutli, Product Manager at R-Kiosk, says white snus makes up about 10 percent of sales in the tobacco [sic] product category.

"We have been selling tobacco-free nicotine pads in our small stores since August 2019, and sales figures show a steady growth trend," Mutli told ERR.

Illegal snus sales have declined

Snus containing tobacco is legal for use but sale is prohibited in Estonia. It had earlier been sold via online social media groups.

Merilin Jürma, Head of Strategic Analysis at the Tax and Customs Board (MTA), says that the market for illegal snus has significantly decreased since the sale of the legal (i.e. white snus) product, however.

"For example, in the first four months of 2020, the number of cases of illegally sold snus uncovered has fallen by almost 20 percent on year, though the impact of the emergency and the closure of borders must also be taken into account," he said.

Peeter Puks agreed. "I think we can see this now. I've researched it here and there. We've looked at illegal snus [online] groups, and it can be seen that [the introduction of white snus] affected a lot of illegal sales. I think that you being able to buy white snus legally has been beneficial, including for the state coffers."

Nonetheless, the consumption of both types of snus, and the legal sale of white snus, along with the illegal sale of tobacco-containing snus, have all risen among the youth, Puks said.

"As far as young people are concerned, unfortunately we cannot be responsible for everyone. We are still well-known in the retail chains, and customer service staff check young people's ages. I am very sorry if adults have been buying it and giving it to minors," said Puks. 

Penalties for adults in the latter case should be tightened, he thought.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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