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What was snuff?

In the 18th century, to be seen taking a 'pinch of snuff' was a mark of refinement, but what exactly was it?

19th century advert for snuff
Published: January 5, 2021 at 11:50 am
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A finely-ground smokeless tobacco inhaled through the nostrils, ‘taking snuff’ originated in the Americas and was introduced into Spain following Columbus’s second voyage to the New World in the 1490s.


The supposed medicinal properties of tobacco saw it spread around Europe, rising in fortune in the 1560s when the French Queen Catherine de’ Medici declared it a wonder for headaches (it had been recommended by John Nicot, who later gave his name to nicotine).

The fashion spread throughout Europe, and by the 1700s snuff was considered a luxury product and mark of refinement. Though the stereotypical image of the snufftaker is the Georgian dandy, it was also popular among women – Queen Charlotte, George III’s queen was so fond of it that she earned the nickname ‘Snuffy Charlotte’. As with most fashions it fell from favour, as new stimulants appeared.


This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine


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