Nunavut snuff shortage leads to soaring prices, Facebook sales
Snuff addicts paying up to seven times more for scarce supplies
A shortage of a snuff has driven some people in Nunavut towards their local Facebook swap-and-sell pages to buy or sell the smokeless tobacco.
There, the price for a tin of snuff can rise as high as $150, roughly seven times more than what you would pay in Iqaluit for snuff, a form of tobacco that is placed between the cheek and the gum.
At Arctic Ventures Marketplace in Iqaluit, which usually carries snuff, the store was completely sold out of the product on March 7.
The price of a tin of snuff—also called dipping or chewing tobacco—was $22.62 before taxes March 7 at D.J. Specialties convenience store in Iqaluit, where a store employee said sales have been brisk.
Only the lowest-selling brand, citrus-flavoured Skoal Long Cut, remained in stock.
The Copenhagen brand is the store’s biggest seller, particularly the “wintergreen” flavour.
But it’s scarce. That’s likely because Copenhagen has been subject to a recent recall after eight consumers complained of foreign objects, including sharp metal objects, in select cans.
And a customer passing through Iqaluit recently bought up D.J’.’s entire supply of the most popular Copenhagen brand of snuff, the employee said.
The store usually sells a small variety of flavours in similar 1.2-ounce (34-gram) tins.
In Nunavut, snuff is particularly popular in Kivalliq communities, including Arviat and Naujaat, and also in the western Nunavut community of Gjoa Haven, judging from the number of call-outs from buyers and sellers on Facebook.
But here’s the problem with buying snuff to sell to others.
Snuff is tobacco, even though it’s a smokeless tobacco product, so, according to the Nunavut Tobacco Control Act, you can’t sell tobacco products if you do not have a Tobacco Retailer Permit.
Nunavut RCMP spokesperson Cpl. David Lawson told Nunatsiaq News that he can’t remember having received complaints linked to the illegal sale of snuff.
But there’s another big problem with snuff: it’s bad for your health. Using any kind of smokeless tobacco like snuff is a major health risk, say the cancer societies of Canada and the United States.
According to their information, people who chew get about the same amount of nicotine as regular smokers along with about 30 chemicals that are known to cause cancer.
Conditions linked to the use of snuff include:
• mouth, tongue, cheek, and gum cancer;
• cancer in the esophagus, which is tube that goes from your mouth to your stomach;
• pancreatic cancer; and,
• mouth and tooth problems.
Many regular users also have receding gums, gum disease, cavities and tooth decay—two to three times worse among Inuit than among average Canadians—from the high sugar content in the tobacco, and bone loss around the teeth, the cancer societies’ websites say.
The surface of the tooth root may be exposed where gums have shrunken. All this can cause teeth to loosen and fall out.
Other harmful health effects of smokeless tobacco include heart disease and high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack and stroke and of early delivery and stillbirth when used during pregnancy.
Snuff can also lead to nicotine poisoning and even death in children who eat it because they think it’s candy.
And snuff can get you addicted to nicotine. Some young people use snuff and cigarettes at the same time. And this can produce even bigger future health risks than they would have from using either product alone.
Soon smokeless tobacco users in Nunavut can also look to paying more for a tin. The territorial Tobacco Tax increase, when enacted, will increase the tax from 20 cents per gram to 30 cents per gram of any form of non-smoked tobacco, adding about $1 on to the price of a 34-gram tin.
With files from Jane George and Peter Varga