30 May 2017

2017 St. Louis Snus Con Wrap Up. 30 May 2017.

This morning when I got up and popped in my first snus portion of the day, I found it hard to believe that the 2017 St. Louis Snus Con was already over. About a year ago, on June 14th, 2016, I put up a video asking people what they thought about having a snus event in the United States. Over the years I've had the opportunity to travel to Sweden, New York City, Chicago, and Washington, DC for Swedish Snus summits, but these were only open to bloggers/snus industry insiders in the United States.  I've always had a dream, however, of holding a conference in the United States on Swedish Snus that was open to all people. After getting feedback from people all over the US, I realized it was time to make this happen. On October 12th, 2016, Snus Con became official. On April 4th, 2017, we announced the Snus Con lineup. I couldn't have been more excited going into the Memorial Day weekend!

We got in to St. Louis the Friday before Snus Con, as did many other people. Night Zero, as I call it, began with a gathering of Snus Con speakers and attendees from Snubie.com, SnusCENTRAL.org, CASAA, Sting Free Snus, Skruf, Snus Nation, Snusology.com, and BRAVE/Missouri Smoke Free.  We gathered in the Union Grill of the City Place Hotel in St. Louis where the event was being held and where many of us were staying. It was clear that everyone was excited about Snus Con!  I was slightly nervous going into the weekend, as I had never planned an event on my own before, but seeing the excited faces gathered together really inspired me and helped me realize that we were all about to be a part of something special.

Snus Con would take place over two days - Saturday, May 27th, 2017, and Sunday, May 28th, 2017.  The City Place Hotel in St. Louis was a centrally located placed downtown with comfortable conference rooms.  Many people asked me before, during, and after the event why I chose St. Louis for the first ever Snus Con. When I looked at geographic results from Snubie.com, our YouTube channel, and members of our Snus Nation group on Facebook, I calculated a central location by using all the results I had available. St. Louis came up as the place that was the most centrally located amongst all US snus fans.  I had always enjoyed the city of STL, so I didn't disagree with the results!

Day One:  Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Chad Jones
Snubie.com / Snusology.com

I kicked off the event by introducing the speakers that would be addressing Snus Con over the course of the weekend.  I also shared a little of my personal story, and the story of Snubie.com.  I didn't want to take up too much time talking about myself or any of my content, because everyone there has seen or heard what I have to say, but they may not have had access to many of the speakers we had lined up. I also had to deliver the unfortunate news that our friend Conny Andersson was hospitalized due to heart trouble and wouldn't be making the event.  I, along with may others, had been looking forward to hearing him speak, but he wouldn't be able to make it.  Everyone wished him well, and sent their best wishes to him.

Day One:  Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Dr. Brad Rodu, Professor of Medicine
University of Louisville
Tobacco Truth

The first speaker we heard from was Dr. Brad Rodu.  When I introduced him, I made a point to mention that he was a personal hero of mine.  When it comes to Swedish Snus, many people often ask questions about the health effects of Swedish Snus.  Nine times out of ten, I point them to a study or article that Dr. Rodu had something to do with.  When it comes to tobacco harm reduction, he is the leading expert in the United States and had a lot to say about harm reduction to the Snus Con crowd.  What he had to say wasn't opinion, or guesswork, it was empirical evidence based on studies done about Swedish Snus.  He spoke about the lack of a cancer risk when it came to Swedish Snus usage, the "Swedish Experience", vaping, and his outlook on Swedish Snus in the United States.  He also took the time to answer questions from the crowd, which is a level of engagement that I was hoping for when I planned this event.  A friend of mine brought his girlfriend who didn't know much about Swedish Snus, and Dr. Rodu was able to put her mind at ease by answering her questions she had about his Swedish Snus usage.

Day One:  Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Joe Ackerman, Marketing Director 
Swedish Match North America

I had spoken with Joe Ackerman not too long ago for Episode 17 of the Snubie.com Snus Podcast. When I began planning a snus event in the United States, it was very important to me that Swedish Match was a part of it. Joe spoke about the Swedish Snus market in the United States and the growth we have been seeing here over the past several years. What was the most interesting to me, however, was the popularity of their Zyn NT product.  Zyn NT is a product I reviewed in the past which is basically a pouched nicotine salt. People are using it who want to quit tobacco, but still want to enjoy nicotine. Zyn NT seems to be heavily catching on in the US and I heard many attendees expressing interest in trying it after hearing him talk about it!  But of course, it is mainly a snus conference, so he also spoke about the growth and popularity of General Snus in the US, which was very exciting to hear.  As a fan of General Snus, I am glad to see it growing.

Day One:  Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Jonas Ydén, Global Smokeless Director
Imperial Tobacco

I've been a Skruf fan for many years. Their Skruf Xtra Stark Portion has been in my regular rotation for quite some time now. When I began planning Snus Con, I was excited to hear from Skruf that they were interested in attending. Jonas was accompanied by Johan Girell, their brand manager, and the two of them couldn't have been nicer.  One side note I want to make is that I filmed the event and all the speakers, but I didn't film Skruf per their request.  This is a big reason why you should plan on coming next year if you missed this year.  You never know what you'll miss out on!  Jonas talked about his background, Imperial Tobacco and their brands, and the popularity of their products in various regions.  It was unsurprising to me to hear about Skruf Slim Fresh being extremely popular in Norway, as I have observed that on social media for quite some time now, particularly platforms like Instagram. What was interesting to me, and most surprising, was the popularity of Knox Snus in Sweden. I have reviewed Knox in text format and video format before and found it to be a good budget offering, but I had no idea how popular it was in Sweden.  It made me, and many attendees, want to take a second look at it.  In fact, I ordered some more of the product line with plans to revisit it for some video reviews.

Day One:  Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Reviewer Panel
Chad Jones - Snubie.com
Matt Campbell - SnusCENTRAL.org
Christopher Nash - Snusology.com

When I began planning the event, one of the things people asked for was a panel of Swedish Snus reviewers to sit together, talk about reviewing snus, and do a group review.  Nash and I had filmed together numerous times before, but I had never met Matt before.  We had a lot of fun talking about snus, our backgrounds, and our individual approaches to reviewing snus.  I surprised them by bringing a "grab bag" of random snus products for us to review.  I wanted the products to be something none of us had ever had before, so I brought three random SiamSnus products from Thailand. We had fun discussing them, as well as answering questions from the audience about reviewing snus.

Day One:  Saturday, May 27th, 2017
Chad Jones, James Martin, Christopher Nash
Snusology.com

To wrap up the day, I was joined by Christopher Nash and James Martin to announce Snusology.  I had known Nash for many, many years, and he and I cofounded GoSmokeless.org. James Martin was a fellow admin for the Snus Nation group on Facebook.  At Snus Con, before the news went public, we announced GoSmokeless.org being rebranded to Snusology.  We also made the announcement that James Martin would be joining our team. Snusology would exist beyond the forum and be have outlets on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

After we wrapped Snus Con for the day I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Matt from SnusCENTRAL. I had never met Matt in person, but enjoyed speaking with him about snus.  Matt came on to the SnusCENTRAL YouTube Channel a few years ago, and has been doing a great job with reviews. I figured since Matt and I were both there, we should do a review together! On the balcony with Gateway Arch behind us we filmed a review of Skruf SuperSlim Original White.  Neither of us could pass up on the opportunity to do a review together, and it was a lot of fun.

We ended the evening with dinner at the Brewhouse Historical Sports Bar and followed that up with karaoke at a place called the Crack Fox.  Christopher Nash's girlfriend Elvira joined me for a rendition of "Summer Nights" from Grease, AJ Moll sang "Family Tradition" by Hank Williams, Jr., Christopher Nash and I sang "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys (don't judge), but the highlight of the night was performances by Bengt Wiberg.  I will be eventually posting some videos from the night in a "behind the scenes" documentary I'm putting together, but it is worth mentioning that Bengt Wiberg is the undisputed Swedish king of karaoke.  For now, enjoy this video of him performing "What A Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong at a wedding in Malta.  Snus Con wasn't just about hearing speakers talk about snus, it was a bonding experience for Swedish Snus fans from the US and abroad.  I enjoyed the time we all spent together outside of the conference room talking snus and everything else under the sun.

Day Two:  Sunday, May 28th, 2017
Larry Waters and Matt Campbell
SnusCENTRAL.org / SnusTV.com

A highlight of the weekend for me was the opportunity to introduce Larry Waters. If you've ever watched our documentary, Snustory: The History of Snubie.com you'll recall that Larry was the one who introduced me to snus and inspired me to start writing. Without SnusCENTRAL, there would be no Snubie.com.  When I introduced him, I made a point to mention that Larry may have, in fact, saved my life.  By helping me discover Swedish Snus, I was able to quit smoking, and move on to creating Snubie.com to, in turn, help others.  Larry spoke about his article on his blog, The Unloading Zone, "Marlboro and Camel: When It Comes To Snus, You Lose", which was instrumental in the founding of SnusCENTRAL.org.  He spoke about his background, the history of SnusCENTRAL, and bringing Matt on board.  Matt spoke about himself, reviewing snus, and the two wrapped up their panel by doing a live, in person snus review of Knekt!

Day Two:  Sunday, May 28th, 2017
Professor Lars Rutqvist, M.D., Ph. D.
Senior Vice President Scientific Affairs
Swedish Match

I first met Lars when I visited Sweden in 2010.  I had followed his research since I started snus, and he is someone I cite whenever I'm mentioning the health effects of Swedish Snus. Before he came to Swedish Match he was a clinical oncologist and cancer researcher at the Karolinska Hospital and Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.  When it comes to tobacco harm reduction, Dr. Rodu and Lars Rutqvist are two of the people I mention the most when people have questions.  He spoke about his background, switching to Swedish Snus, and joining Swedish Match.  He also spoke about the MRTP application in the United States and appeared hopeful that we would someday be able to see a reduced harm label on General Snus products sold in the United States.  I was excited that he came to Snus Con because I really wanted to be able to put videos out there of he and Dr. Rodu speaking about Swedish Snus and harm reduction.  This is content that would be important in the future for people looking for scientific information and facts about the effects of Swedish Snus and how much safer it is than smoking.

Day Two:  Sunday, May 28th, 2017
Alex Clark - CASAA
AJ Moll - BRAVE/Missouri Smoke Free

When I began planning Snus Con, I was excited to hear from AJ Moll that he wanted to come and speak, as well as Alex Clark.  One of the biggest misconceptions people have had over the years, myself included, is that CASAA is a "vape organization".  They spoke during this panel about how CASAA is an advocate for tobacco harm reduction in all forms, including snus.  In fact, both men who spoke are vapers who also use snus! They shared their own personal stories, as well as issues that felt passionate about in the harm reduction community. Alex closed the panel with a call to action for people to join CASAA (hint, it's free) and to share their testimonials. The majority of testimonials they have are from vape users, but if more Swedish Snus users could submit their success stories it would help them in advocating for all forms of tobacco harm reduction.

Day Two:  Sunday, May 28th, 2017
Bengt Wiberg
Sting Free Snus

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was meeting Bengt Wiberg.  He is one of the nicest people you'll ever meet you in your life, truly.  Aside from being a gifted singer, he is truly passionate about finding ways to make snus safer and more approachable for fans of Swedish Snus.  His revolutionary Sting Free product sets out to do just that.  He spoke about his background, but mainly focused on discussing Sting Free Snus.  He shared studies that showed many people weren't fans of the sting of snus, he talked about a non-exclusive agreement he entered into with Swedish Match for sting free portions, and his outlook on the future of snus.  It is his hope that all products have a Sting Free option available.  I had the opportunity to try his Sting Free portion on Night Zero and found it to be incredibly comfortable.  I didn't notice any loss of flavor, either.  Once I get the video up of his presentation, I hope you will check it out, because it is very interesting and informative!

We were incredibly lucky to have two publications come to cover Snus Con. Tobak and Mer came from Sweden to cover the first ever Snus Con and I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Åke Hultqvist of Tobak and Mer about his publication, his background, and his experiences with tobacco consumers.  He was incredibly nice, and I couldn't have been more grateful for them coming all the way to St. Louis, Missouri to cover the event.  They took a lot of photos and covered Snus Con from start to finish, so I look forward to seeing Snus Con in Tobak and Mer!  I asked him if there would be an article soon and he jokingly said no, then replied there would be many articles.

Taco Tuinstra from Tobacco Reporter came to cover the event as well. When I met him, I thought he was from Sweden as well, but it turns out Tobacco Reporter is actually based in North Carolina! He is from Europe and had a great accent, which led me to believe he was from overseas as well. He serves as editorial director of Tobacco Reporter.  He stayed for the duration of Snus Con and covered it from start to finish.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they have to say about Snus Con in an upcoming issue of Tobacco Reporter!

We ended the day with a happy hour and said goodbye to many who had to leave on flights that afternoon.  After happy hour, we went to this nice Italian place in a region of STL called "The Hill". Cunetto House of Pasta. The prices were small and the portions were large.  Bengt got a toasted ravioli appetizer which he thought was a "Swedish size portion", but followed by that came a steak and a bowl of pasta.  He mentioned that his entire meal would be enough for a family in Sweden.  I noticed the same, the bowl of pasta I received must have weighed about 5 pounds, because I only ate about 25% of it before throwing in the towel.  But the food was fantastic.  The evening's conversation covered everything under the sun, but my favorite part was hearing about how happy people were with Snus Con.

This past weekend, everyone had a great time, enjoyed the speakers, learned something, and enjoyed the time we all spent together.  New friendships were forged, old friendships remained and strengthened, and a stronger urge to fight for harm reduction was formed.  Snus Con, in the end, was about education, unity, and direction.  And we all left St. Louis having learned something, and with goals in mind for what we all want to accomplish.  When I went into this event, I wasn't sure if this would be a one-off, or if I would plan it again next year.  "It depends on the crowd sizes", I told myself.  However in the end, it wasn't about the crowd sizes.  It was about the experience.  And the experience was so great that it inspired me to want to do it again in 2018.  We all walked away with something, and in a way, I think we walked away stronger advocates for tobacco harm reduction.  In the end, I discovered the mission of Snus Con was to bring people together to educate and empower advocates and activists.  I couldn't be more happy with how things turned out, and I look forward to doing it again in 2018.

2 comments:

  1. You rock Chad! Keep up the great work. For every attendee at Snus Con there are probably ten of us out here reading your blog, benefitting from your efforts, and not saying much, so... thank you. You rock!

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  2. Snuscon 2017 was truly amazing. I have already accepted the invitation from Mr Snus North America Chad Jones to participate in 2018 also. I have some new snus innovations to present and surely there might by then also be Sting Free Snus options out on the market in both Europe and USA.

    Proud to be one of the speakers at Snuscon. Great fun both before, during and after the discussions as well! Snus karaoke was a blast!

    Read more about the world's only patent approved snus pouch that turns away the sting/burn on the gum and oral mucosa whilst, in the same time, protecting these from irritation.

    Snus love to the world from

    Bengt Wiberg
    Snus health innovator & snus patent holder
    Sweden

    https://www.facebook.com/stingfreesnus/
    www.stingfreesnus.com
    Instagram: Sting_Free_Snus
    Twitter: @Stingfreesnus

    Videos (plenty): Browse Sting Free Snus

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