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Tins of British Nasal Tobacco
Snuff is ground or pulverized tobacco, which is generally inhaled or "snuffed" through the nose. It is a type of smokeless tobacco. There are several types, but traditionally it means Dry/European nasal snuff. In the United States, "snuff" can also refer to dipping tobacco, which is applied to the gums rather than inhaled.


European (dry) snuff

Dry snuff, or European snuff is usually scented or flavored and is intended to be sniffed through the nose. Typical flavors are floral, mentholated (also called 'medicated'), fruit, and spice, either pure or in blends. Other common flavors include: Modern Flavors Apart from flavors, dry snuff also comes in a range of texture and moistness, from very fine to coarse, and from toast (very dry) to very moist. Often drier snuffs are ground finer.


Moist snuff is called snuff or dip in the U.S. in contrast to the aforementioned dry snuff, which was perceived to be a European, particularly British, Polish and French, habit . In truth, it originates, and is still produced and used, in Europe. It tends to be applied to the gums, rather than sniffed. Called dipping tobacco, it is similar to snus, a Swedishmarker tobacco product, and it is possible that this type of snuff originated in Sweden or Scandinavia . American snuff comes in many varieties, with flavours including peach, mint, and licorice. Dipping tobacco is distinct from chewing tobacco.

In India, creamy snuff is a paste consisting of tobacco, clove oil, glycerin, spearmint, menthol, and camphor sold in a toothpaste tube. It is marketed mainly to women in India and is known by the brand names Ipco (made by Asha Industries), Denobac, Tona, Ganesh.


When snuff taking was fashionable, the manufacture of snuff accessories was a lucrative industry in several cultures. In Europe, snuff boxes ranged from those made in very basic materials, such as horn, to highly ornate designs featuring precious materials made using state of the art techniques. Large snuff containers, called mulls, were usually kept on the table.

A floral-scented snuff called "English Rose" is provided for members of the British House of Commonsmarker at public expense due to smoking in the House being banned since 1693.A famous silver communal snuff box kept at the entrance of the House was destroyed in an air raid during World War II with a replacement being subsequently presented to the House by Winston Churchill. Very few members are said to take snuff nowadays.

In Chinamarker, snuff bottles were used, usually available in two forms. Glass bottles are decorated on the inside to protect the design. Another type used layered multi-coloured glass; parts of the layers were removed to create a picture.


Snufftaking by the native peoples of modern-day Haiti was observed by a monk named Ramon Pane on Columbus' second journey to the Americas during 1493-1496.

In 1561 Jean Nicot, the Frenchmarker ambassador in Lisbonmarker, Portugalmarker, sent snuff to Catherine de' Medici to treat her son's persistent migraines. Her belief in its curative properties helped to popularize snuff among the elite.

By the 1600s some started to object to snuff being taken. Pope Urban VIII threatened to excommunicate snufftakers, and in Russiamarker in 1643, Tsar Michael set the punishment of removal of the nose for snuff use. However, elsewhere use persisted; King Louis XIII of Francemarker was a devout snufftaker, and by 1638, snuff use had been reported to be spreading in Chinamarker.

By the 1700s, snuff had become the tobacco product of choice among the elite, prominent users including Napoleon, King George III's wife Queen Charlotte, Benedict XIII. The taking of snuff helped to distinguish the elite members of society from the common populace, which generally smoked its tobacco.It is also during the 1700s that the first tobacco warnings were published, among these, John Hill, an Englishmarker doctor warned of the overuse of snuff, causing vulnerability to nasal cancers.Snuff's image as an aristocratic luxury attracted the first U.S. federal tax on tobacco, created in 1794.

In Eighteenth-Century Britain, the Gentlewoman's Magazine advised readers with ailing sight to use the correct type of Portuguese snuff, "whereby many eminent people had cured themselves so that they could read without spectacles after having used them for many years."

In certain areas of Africa, snuff reached native Africans before white Europeans did. A fictional representation of this is in Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, where the Igbo villagers are regular snuff-takers long before they ever encounter the first British missionaries. In some African countries, such as South Africa and Nigeriamarker, snuff is still popular with the older generation, though its use is slowly declining, with cigarette smoking becoming the dominant form of tobacco use.

Health risks

Users of smokeless tobacco products including snuff are believed to face less cancer risk than smokers, but are still at greater risk than people who do not use any tobacco products.

Legal issues

Oral snuff, in the form of dipping tobacco and snus is banned from all countries of the European Union except Romaniamarker, Swedenmarker, and Denmarkmarker, where the sale of snus is legal. Usage of snus in Scandinavian countries is very common. Sale of snus over the counter in Norwaymarker is also legal.

Snuff is readily available over the counter in most European tobacco shops. In Britain, snuff is much cheaper than cigarettes and other tobacco products as it is tax exempt, however for duty free purposes snuff still carries the same limitations as other tobacco products.

Production and possession of nasal snuff was illegal in Poland from 1996 until 2000.


An Antique Pair of Snuffers, 1888

  • Moeda

  • Bernard brothers - Founded in 1733
  • Lotzbeck - Founded in 1774
  • Sternecker - Founded in 1900
  • Pöschl - Founded in 1902, makers of Gletscherprise, Gawith Apricot & Ozona
  • Wittmann - Founded in 1955
  • Arnold Andre


  • De Kralingse

South Africa
  • Leonard Dingler
  • Ntsu


United Kingdom
  • Fribourg & Treyer - Founded in 1720
  • Wilsons of Sharrow - Founded in 1737
  • Samuel Gawith - Founded in 1792
  • Gawith Hoggarth - Founded in 1854
  • Hedges
  • McChrystal's - Founded in 1926
  • Toque - Founded in 2006
  • Jaxons Snuff - Founded in 2007


See also


  3. Bourne, G. E.: Columbus, Ramon Pane, and the Beginnings of American Anthropology (1906), Kessinger Publishing, 2003, page 5.
  4. McKenna, T.: Food of the Gods - The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge - A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution, Bantam Books, 1993, page 199.
  5. Porter, R., Teich, M.: Drugs and Narcotics in History, Cambridge University Press, 1997, page 39.

Further reading

  • Ursula Bourne, Snuff. Shire Publications, 1990. ISBN 978-0-74780-089-7
  • John D. Hinds, "The Use of Tobacco." 1882. [426169]

External links

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