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The smokeless tobacco Patrik Hildingsson carries in his briefcase and pockets has helped save lives in his native country of Sweden, according to the tobacco marketing executive.
The vice president of new business development at Swedish Match North America, a Richmond, Va.-based maker of cigars, chewing tobacco and snuff recently told the Times-Dispatch he came to the United States last year to advocate a smokeless, spitless tobacco, known as snus (pronounced "snoos") as a legitimate alternative to cigarettes.
About 46 million people smoke in the United States, he told the newspaper, and about 400,000 die every year from smoking-related diseases. "It's the leading preventable cause of premature death," he said. "Ninety-seven percent of all nicotine consumption in the world comes from a deadly product -- the cigarette. You smoke for nicotine, and the smoke harms you. But nicotine itself is not that harmful. I think you have a great market opportunity here for a product like snus."
Stockholm-based Swedish Match AB moved Hildingsson to Richmond in September to oversee the North American marketing and distribution, public relations, concept development, and regulatory and scientific affairs for what the company calls CRPs, or cigarette replacement products.
Hildingsson said snus has long been popular among Scandinavians living in America, but it doesn't have a large market. The company is doing test markets in New York, Chicago, Ohio and North Carolina, and he has set a four- to five-year goal of expanding sales "by reaching out to the smokers that are looking for an alternative."