Snuff is a smokeless tobacco made from ground or pulverised tobacco leaves. It is snuffed into the nasal cavity, delivering a swift hit of nicotine and a lasting flavoured scent especially if flavouring has been blended with the tobacco.
Christopher Columbus first noticed American Indians snuffing the tobacco, the preparation very close to what we now call snuff. Columbus brought quantities of the powder back to Europe, where it quickly became fashionable among the French and Spanish, and later made its way to England.
Henceforth, snuff became firmly enrooted as the tobacco product of choice among the aristocracy and followers of fashion. It was seen as a far more refined habit than smoking, and was especially favoured in court. Royalty, both Kings and Queens, attended to their snuff habits with a passion, and carried specialised snuff accoutrements and even built dedicated rooms for storing their snuff.
Gradually the common man came to know the pleasures of snuff too, and snuff mills were established across England in cities such as London, Sheffield and Manchester to supply the growing demand. Retailers caught the bug as well, and set up shops solely dealing in snuff and snuff paraphernalia.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries snuff production boomed, far outstripping smoking tobacco or its US sibling, chewing tobacco. It seemed that everyone was taking snuff.
During the 20th century snuff declined considerably in popularity, partly on account of the growing tobacco industry's huge marketing machine pushing the "convenience and elegance" of filter cigarettes.
These days, though, snuff is seeing something of a rebirth amongst connoisseurs and those looking for a nicotine fix where smoking is banned or viewed with contempt.