Oliver Twist - smokeless tobacco

Oliver Twist is the brand name for a Danish-made tobacco-product for use in the oral cavity, produced by a family firm in the town of Odense on the island of Fyn. The firm reportedly dates back to 1805, the same year when Hans Christian Andersen, the famous Danish writer of fairy-tales (The Ugly Duckling, The Emperor's New Suit, etc) was born in the same city.

Directions for getting the kick

Oliver Twist comes in small (5 x 3 x 1 cm) plastic boxes, containing some 30 tiny (ca 9 x 4 mm) cylindrical pieces, cut from rolled and twisted tobacco-leaves. The user is supposed to put one of these pieces under herhis lip (between the lip and the lateral maxillary teeth) and wait for the nicotine kick. To renew the kick after some minutes, the user may with herhis tongue maneuver the piece to between herhis teeth, give it a gentle bite, then again place it under the lip with the tongue. Whenever the user gets tired of this progressively wet and unseemly foreign object in herhis mouth, which generally happens after some 15 - 60 minutes, shehe simply spits it out.

Addictive, but not cancerous

One piece of Oliver Twist contains marginally more nicotine than one cigarette, but its takes a much longer time to absorb this quantity of nicotine via the mucous membranes of the oral cavity - about one hour - than when smoking a cigarette and absorbing nicotine via the lungs. And it does not give you lung cancer, nor does it damage your pulmonary alveoli. Medical research has also shown that it doesn't give you cancer of the mouth. But Oliver Twist is, like all nicotine-containing products, highly addictive.

Alternative to facial disfigurement

The competition to Oliver Twist (and similar leafy tobacco products for oral use), comes mainly from the Swedish tobacco product "snus", which is also used orally. The word "snus" is sometimes translated as "snuff", which is not correct, as snuff is not used orally, but nasally. Snus consists of finely powdered, moist tobacco. The user takes a pinch of it between herhis thumb and index finger and places it between the upper lip and the front maxillary teeth. The snus under the upper front lip makes a visible bulge, thus disfiguring - or sometimes improving - the user's facial features. Also, as the tobacco powder gets wet inside the user's mouth, some of it begins to drool down from the corners of the mouth. Snus-users are thus an easily recognizable lot. Due to the small size of the Oliver Twist pieces and the fact that the original leafy structure of the tobacco-leaf is preserved, these esthetical problems do not appear when using Oliver Twist.

EU retreat

Snus is extensively used in Sweden and Norway, particularly by outdoor workers like farmers, construction crews and lumberjacks. When Sweden became a member of the European Union, the EU authorities required producers of snus to put a warning label - "Causes cancer" - on all boxes sold. The EU experts could hardly imagine that anybody would put tobacco in their mouth, and if they did, then they would probably get mouth cancer anyway, so they equated the health risks of snus with those of cigarettes. As a tobacco product, Oliver Twist was also required to exhibit the "Causes cancer"-label. Recently the massive medical evidence to the contrary has prompted the EU authorities to ease on this requirement, switching to a less scary warning label: "May damage your health and is addictive". This is the warning that I presently get from my recently purchased box of Oliver Twist.

About 3 million boxes of Oliver Twist are sold yearly and the sales are increasing, as Oliver Twist is gradually elbowing itself in among the Scandinavian ranks of snus-users. 80% of the production is exported from Denmark, mainly to Sweden and Norway. Oliver Twist comes in 8 different flavors, among them the black-currant-variety that I prefer. However, on the box this flavor is labeled "Sunberry", a cute mistranslation of the Danish word for black currant, "solbaer".


General information from the House of Oliver Twist A/S: www.oliver-twist.dk

Personal interview with one Oliver Twist user: montecarlo