Snuff is a variety of smokeless tobacco that is comprised of finely ground or shredded tobacco leaves. It is available in a variety of flavors and scents — attar of roses, lavender, cloves and jasmine, for example — and can be either dry or moist. It is made by grinding the tobacco and subjecting it to repeated fermentations.
Many confuse snuff with snus, a more recent smokeless tobacco product that originated in Sweden.
Users place moist snuff in their mouths, most commonly between their cheek and gum or behind the upper or lower lip. Dry snuff tobacco, on the other hand, is inhaled through the nose. There are also lesser-known “creamy” snuff products consisting of tobacco, clove oil, glycerin, spearmint, menthol and camphor, and packaged in toothpaste-like tubes.
Using snuff is also referred to as “dipping.” The dip rests on the inside lining of the mouth for a period that varies with the user, generally between 20 and 40 minutes. Nicotine and other alkaloids found in tobacco are absorbed in saliva under the lip by the inferior or superior labial arteries. Buccal and sublingual absorption may also occur.
The top three snuff brands in the U.S. are Copenhagen, Skoal fine cut and Kodiak. Together, they are said to account for over 90% of the market. Aside from convenience stores, snuff is sold primarily in specialty smoke shops and online.
According to Oral Health America’s National Spit Tobacco Education Program (NSTEP), the nicotine content in a can of dip or snuff is approximately 144 milligrams, which is equal to about 80 cigarettes, or four packs.
Snuff has a long history. It is said to have originated in South America, and was seen being used by the indigenous tribes of Brazil by a Franciscan monk during Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the New World in 1493. As a result, it made its way back to Europe where its popularity soared among the aristocracy. When snuff was first introduced in Europe by Jean Nicot, the French ambassador at Lisbon, it was said to be effective in the treatment of headaches and head colds.