Anyone heard of Jean Nicot? No we hadn’t either, but he is widely credited with bringing snuff tobacco to the western world , bringing it back to France in the 1500’s following some travels abroad. Now we have started the history lesson, we should continue…
Nicot presented the tobacco to the King, who forbade its use unless it was for medicinal purposes, resulting in…you guessed it, the rich and famous jumping on board, making it a huge commodity. Remind you of anything? One of the most famous users of Snuff tobacco for medicinal use was Catherine Di Medici, prescribed by Nicot as a remedy for her crippling migraines. Amazingly, this lead to the King reversing his decision on the ban (surprise surprise). Snuff was limited to the rich at this time but it soon became more readily available and made its way to England where it was just as popular. By 1700 snuff mills were popping up around Europe.
As the US grew, snuff spread throughout the colonies and became so popular that even the US senate made it available to senators to prevent the need for them to leave. To this day the boxes that were stocked with snuff tobacco still are, although this is more for tradition than for the use of this forgotten treat. America manufactured its own snuff with its own unique flavouring, a smokey aroma with a far bitter taste than its European alternatives.
Snuff tobacco is not so easy to use, requiring the thumb and forefinger to pinch up a small amount before lightly sniffing it up into the nasal cavity. It becomes a bit of a skill to perfect. It can also be taken off the back of the hand, although this is not recommended in public unless you want to be accused of taking another type of vice… The nicotine is why snuff is used and this is absorbed into the bloodstream, just like it is when smoking.
The international clampdown on public smoking has seen an increase in the sales and use of snuff tobacco, making for interesting times as we head back to the 1500’s. Who’d have thought it.
Snuff tobacco is made from pulverised tobacco leaves that have been stored for months, or even years in some cases, and is often mixed with different scents and flavours, much like vaping fluids are today.