People who know little about using “mouth tobacco” in the U.S. refer to all of it as “chew.” Chew or chewing tobacco consists of tender shredded leaves soaked in various syrups and molasses and packaged loose in a pouch. A chew is placed in the cheek in a golf ball-sized wad, may indeed be chomped on and produces thick, dark spit which must be expelled from the mouth with great force. Most folks know it only from baseball and cowboy westerns. As an American, my challenge in answer to any Icelander who would taunt foreigners with rotten shark or lamb face is this… Get you a big ole chew! While I don’t guarantee, as Jessie Ventura does in Predator, that it will make you a “sexual Tyrannosaurus,” I do believe it will make the room spin violently and likely cause vomiting on first attempt. We need not concern ourselves further with chew here. What Icelanders need is the freedom to dip snuff.
In popular American use, a dip of snuff is pinched out of a hockey puck-shaped can and shoved between the teeth and the bottom lip. This is followed by much spitting and what remains is dug out and flicked away, usually within an hour.
The Icelandic way is a bit more involved and, if it applies at all to the subject, sophisticated. I think it holds some parallel to the Icelandic aversion to eating with your hands. While most Americans simply grab up a hamburger or slice of pizza, many Icelanders approach this food with knife and fork. I think the use of a specially developed snuff shot is in line with this.
It is necessary to first acquire a plastic infant oral medicine syringe about the size of a skinny person’s little finger. The nozzle end of the tube is cut off so that the entire diameter of the shot is open. The rubber tip is also cut from the plunger section leaving the plastic disk the size of the shot at its end. Technical writing does not lend itself well to the description of such a fantastic device. As with all better crack pipes, I am sure a diagram or personal instruction from an initiated user would be much better.
Once the shot is rendered thus useless for baby’s health, the tube is loaded by pushing it several times into the open snuff can. The fix is then injected neatly above the front teeth in the upper lip of the addict, creating an instant cosmetic effect which rivals collagen. This contributes to another variation from popular American use. Because the salivary glands are not aroused so much in this position as in the lower lip, less spit is produced. Indeed, many Icelandic snuff dippers spit very little or not at all. This probably creates the greatest health threat to the user since tobacco spit is quite harsh on the throat and stomach.
Oral snuff has traditionally been used as a “hands free device” for nicotine fiends. What could be simpler to use for a farmer or fisherman deep in their daily toils should they so desire?