A short history of snuff


A short history of snuff

Fra Ramón Pané, a 15th century friar, was invited by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the new world. Upon their arrival, Fra Pané was tasked with learning as much as possible about local native customs and morality. He soon found out about rituals which included ingesting tobacco nasally. Tobacco leaves served as a base for a ground powder that the locals called Cahoba. This later became known as snuff in the West. The natives stored it in hollow bones which, looking back, would make them the first snuff set or snuff box.


Columbus returned to Spain and presented his findings to Ferdinand the second and Isabella of Spain. However, tobacco and smoking was looked down upon by the Spanish due to the association it had with the Incas and Aztecs, who were seen as less developed by the Spanish people. It was not until the French ambassador introduced snuff to the French queen Catherine de’ Medici, who first proclaimed its benefits, that snuff gained popularity in Europe. Snuff took over in French high society as a result, and its perceived medicinal properties aided its popularity too. Smoking was less common.


As snuff gained popularity, the church became more accepting, which led snuff to gain more popularity in Spain. The medicinal qualities also helped propel snuff to England, which is evident to this day as a snuff box has sat in the British Houses of Parliament since the 18th century. Due to the history of snuff being an upper class habit, snuff boxes were historically very ornate. Today, you can purchase a snuff kit that has maintained the elegance of a historical snuff box but with a more modern choice of design and materials.



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