Snus is commonly sold in the Nordic countries but sale is illegal in all the European Union except Sweden. Local varieties of snus, growing in popularity in the United States, have been seen as an alternative to smoking, chewing, and dipping tobacco. However, US-manufactured snus does not have the same production standards or ingredients as Swedish snus, and typically uses significant amounts of sweeteners.
In the 16th century, snuff (pulverized tobacco), the precursor of snus (moist snuff), was introduced to France by French diplomat Jean Nicot, who worked at the court of King Henry II of France. He recommended snuff to Catherine de' Medici as a migraine remedy. When she became a regular user of snuff, it became a fashion among the court and upper-class citizens of France, especially among females, as it was deemed more socially acceptable than other forms of tobacco.
This trend of using snuff in the nose also spread to Sweden at the beginning of the 17th century. In the 19th century, Swedish producers began to manufacture moist snuff, which was placed under the upper lip and did not require spitting. It became known as snus. Ettan (meaning "the number one"), registered since 1822, is the oldest brand of snus still sold.
It is a popular myth that snus or any other forms of smokeless tobacco contains fiberglass, or glass particles, as an aid to the absorption of nicotine by the user's blood. This is not true. Mucous membranes readily absorb free nicotine. The burning sensation is caused by the nicotine itself (similar to the tingle of nicotine gum) and some food additives such as sodium carbonate (E500). Sodium carbonate is a food additive used to increase the pH of the tobacco (reduce the acidity). This increases the bioavailability of the nicotine, meaning more is available for absorption. Some flavorings (mints in particular) are astringent and may increase the tingling or burning sensation.
Snus, dry snuff, and dipping tobacco are distinct products that English speaking people often call snuff but are processed and used in very different ways, each with their own sets of risks.