Naswar has transcended from its lowly status of being just chewing tobacco to being the identity of an entire culture. Although people all over Pakistan use and abuse naswar, it has become associated with the people of the KPK and the tribal belt.
Naswar is a common indulgence and symbolizes an important trait; the traditional hospitality of the Pakistani people. Ask a naswar user for a hit and you will not be disappointed. Perhaps the underlying reason is the low cost of naswar. A typical bag costs about PKR 20 and could produce 20 hits (25 if you are careful with the size of the pinch).
Naswar is a complex amalgamation of various tastes all stemming from the tobacco and several additives that go into the manufacture of the product. The base component is mildly cured tobacco that is dried in the sun and reduced to a paste.
Contrary to popular belief, you will not find the best naswar in the north of the country. You will have to go to the city by the sea, Karachi. All grades of naswar from dirt cheap scrapings of the barrel to top quality freshest produce are available in all parts of the city. However, if you really wish to get the best stuff, go to Banaras colony or old Sabzi Mandi, both Pashtu dominated areas.
Naswar is not just tobacco. Its sharp taste comes from ammonium chloride and lime. The stickiness is the result of the oil base that keeps everything together. What distinguished one “brand” from another is the addition of flavoring agents such as cinnamon, corundum, menthol to spices and herbs native to KPK.
Naswar manufacture has long been a cottage industry in Karachi and parts of KPK.
Naswar will continue to be the drug of choice of many because of its traditional recognition as one of things that distinguish men from boys. The cost might rise but naswar will continue to give cigarettes and other forms of tobacco a very stiff competition in years to come.