Snuff: History and Effects on Health

He snuff , Also known as snuff, is a tobacco plant-based preparation ( Nicotiana tabacum ) Which has a long history in mankind, even longer than that of cigarettes.

This ground compound, which is consumed by nasal aspiration, is mixed with other flavoring substances (such as mint, among others) to reduce its strong aroma.

Snuff bottles

Rapé is a French word, whose translation into Castilian means"striped"and it was precisely because it was tobacco scratched in its origins for what was attributed that name to this ancestral preparation.

Even the Royal Spanish Academy in its dictionary included this ended up as the definition of snuff tobacco. This substance is obtained in most cases in the form of powder, made with leaves cut and ground after they have matured.

Origin of snuff

The origin of the snuff is in the pre-Columbian cultures of America and at the same time, but without shared knowledge, in different regions of the continent tobacco was consumed in its different versions, among them snorted.

The native peoples of Brazil were among the first to be registered to begin to consume snuff. For their elaboration, they placed the dry tobacco leaves in a mortar and ground it and then inhale it.

Also in Haiti they absorbed tobacco by means of a tube. In his novel The noble art of smoking , The writer Dunhill gives account of this practice and describes it with simplicity:"They used a hand of pink mortar and a mortar to grind the dust,"he wrote.

With the arrival of Cristobal Colon, and its boats, the American continent began to keep track of this form of consumption of striped tobacco.

These practices were collected by some of the travelers, including the religious Brother Ramón Pané, and so this preparation began its worldwide expansion, mainly in Europe.

Snuff came to the Old Continent first by way of the Portuguese settlers and then by the Spaniards. Almost a century later, the first seeds of tobacco would arrive for its cultivation and later some medical experiments would be done.


Snuff, in addition to being a substance of recreational consumption, in its first moments in Europe had medicinal applications, about which still remain some controversies.

Felipe II was one of the drivers of snuff in the form of medicine. Known as"El Prudente", he was king of Spain between 1556 and 1598, Naples and Sicily from 1554 and Portugal and the Algarves from 1580. He also ruled in England and Ireland.

The monarch asked the doctor and botanist Francisco Hernandez de Boncalo that he will begin the cultivation of tobacco to give him medicinal uses.

One of the first people to test the faculties of the snuff was Catalina de Médici, wife of Enrique II of France, who began a paleáativa treatment against the Migraines Suffered by his son.

Thus this preparation gained popularity among the elites, so for many years snuff was associated with a product typical of the aristocracies and was considered a luxury good.

Despite these medicinal uses, the healing faculties of snuff, or smashed tobacco, were never scientifically proven.

Health Effects

According to the most modern studies on the effects that the snuff produces in the health of the people, its consequences are associated to the tobacco in any of its versions.

Although the snuff does not generate the combustion so harmful to health that it does cause the cigar, it contains all the components of the plant Nicotiana tabacum .

These types of products contain carcinogenic substances, such as nitrosamines, formaldehyde, crotonaldehyde, benzopyrene and other polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, in addition to polonium.

Nitrosamines are the most dangerous component in health, being the most prevalent and strongest carcinogens in tobacco, with effects in the mouth and pancreas, one of the most potent types of cancer, especially in men.

Despite scientific records, data on the toxicity of snuff vary in each country. Even in some parts of the world, the increase in cardiovascular diseases related to snuff consumption was not confirmed.

Some experiments revealed that snuff has airway decongestive powers and may even prevent some types of cold. However, experts warn of its side effects.

Rape today

In some shamanic cultures of Mexico or the Colombian Amazon, snuff is used as a substance with healing properties.

In addition, in the world today snuff became popular again in different parts of the world, being one of the new forms of tobacco consumption, despite its long history.

Many consumers rediscovered this way of enjoying smokeless tobacco, as a way of respecting the environment, with a community that grows every day in different corners of the world.

But it is not only due to an ecological conscience the modern rise of snuff, but also is linked to a new fashion of consumption of this stimulating product.

According to consumers, snuff, snuff or snuff is a pleasant, refreshing and stimulating way to enjoy the plant Nicotiana tabacum .

Historical personalities such as Napoleon I, Frederick the Great, the poet Friedrich Schiller, the philosopher Immanuel Kant and Helmuth von Moltke were some of the great consumers of snuff.


  1. Alfred H. Dunhill, The Noble Art of Smoking, Parsifal, 1996.
  2. Bourne, G.E.: Columbus, Ramon Pane, and the Beginnings of American Anthropology (1906), Kessinger Publishing, 2003.

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