The American Indians had cultivated and used tobacco long before it came to Europe. However, the Indians consumed their tobacco as snuff instead of smoking it.
On his second journey to America (1494-96), Christopher Columbus noticed how the Indians used this mysterious powder and brought some of this tobacco in powder form back to Europe.
At first, snuff became popular among the Spanish and French aristocracy. During his exile in France, King Charles II discovered snuff. Upon his return to England, he introduced it to the English aristocracy and snuff soon became popular among them as well.
Queen Charlotte, the wife of King George III, had such a passion for snuff that she soon earned the nickname “Snuffy Charlotte.” It was in 1702 that snuff first reached the general population. The English navy had captured a number of Spanish ships and the sailors were partially paid with snuff seized from these ships. Shortly after their return to England, the sailors began to introduce snuff to the ports and coastal towns of England.
Into the 19th Century, the production of snuff was greater than the production of tobacco for smoking or chewing. Everyone was using snuff. The poet Alexander Pope used it; Charles Darwin used it; even the Duke of Wellington used it. Lord Nelson supplied himself with large quantities of snuff before he set sail with his combat ships and Napoleon was said to have used over 7 pounds of snuff a month. In addition, physicians prescribed snuff as a cure for headaches, sleeplessness, toothaches, coughs and colds.
During the 20th Century, snuff was pushed into the background by cigarettes and cigars. However, during the last few years, snuff use has been experiencing a revival – like every good lifestyle. Today, snuff is once again trendy. This may have to do with the negative attention that smoking has received over the past few years.