Snuff, A Brief History:

The first documented accounts of Europeans taking snuff are in the 17th century, starting in Spain after the colonists discovered and subsequently imported the habit to there homeland. France would follow shortly after and it would travel across the channel to Scotland and later, the rest of the United Kingdom…

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Through a close bond between the French and Scottish courts known as the ‘auld alliance’, the Scots had a slight head start in consuming snuff compared to their counterparts south of the border.

Many prominent leaders had adverse opinions on this new trend, Louis XIII had snuff banned, the only exception being if prescribed by a physician. Pope Urban XIII banned its use from inside the church and ordered anyone found to break this rule to be excommunicated. A more grisly punishment was ordered on behest of Tsar Michael 1st who had decided the suitable punishment for snuff takers was to have there nose simply lopped off.

In 1702 a famous naval battle would go on to propel snuff use into the mainstream culture of Britain. Just off the shore of the Spanish port of Viro an attack was led by Admiral Sir George Rooke with a fleet of British and Dutch vessels. They had pursued a Spanish fleet of galleons that were under the protection of French ships. After managing to commandeer one ship, the Torbay, a vast quantity of snuff was recovered and taken back to London to be sold. Once hitting the streets of the U.K vendors would name the snuff “SP”, an abbreviation for Spanish a name that is still used today for one of the most popular forms of snuff.

By the 18th century snuff use was widespread through all sections of society. Rich and poor, male and female, snuff was an everyday part of British culture. Many prominent figures were snuff fanatics such as George IV, Charles Darwin and Napoleon along with modern celebrities such as science fiction author Philip K. Dick, actor Sean Bean and comedian Stephen Fry.

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