The Beginner's Guide to Snuff Tobacco

What is snuff?

Tin of Wilson's dynamite snuff

Snuff is a kind of smokeless tobacco made from ground up tobacco leaves. Rather than being burned and smoked, snuff is inhaled into the front of the nose in powdered form by the user. This delivers a quick nicotine hit and lasting sensation, scent and flavour. It comes in a range of textures, moistures and nicotine levels to accommodate for different tastes and preferences.

While traditional flavours are blended from tobacco leaves only, many varieties of snuff are also flavoured with additional scents and essences.

When was snuff invented?

Snuff first became popular in England during the seventeenth century, but ground tobacco is known to have been used by indigenous populations of Brazil before the advent of the Spaniards.

Following the ban on smoking in many public places, snuff has seen a resurgence in popularity with younger generations seeking smoke-free alternatives for tobacco.

Snuff: 8 quick tips!

  1. Sniff, don't snort!
  2. Less is more. Take snuff in small portions, no larger than the size of a pea.
  3. The snuff only needs to enter the front of your nose, not your nasal cavity.
  4. Blow your nose whenever you feel you need to; avoid snuff build up.
  5. Try using a snuff bullet to sniff easily and discreetly.
  6. Steam from a hot shower can help keep your nose clear.
  7. Store in a snuff box to keep fresh for longer
  8. Expect some sneezing. This is okay, providing you use a tissue!

How do you use snuff tobacco?

Snuff is a nasally administrated tobacco product - in simple terms, it is traditionally inhaled in small quantities into the nose. There are many variations in snuff usage methods, and each snuff user will have preferred techniques. This guide will outline some of the most common methods for using snuff, as well as a few largely agreed guidelines for safe and comfortable use.

How do you sniff snuff?

All snuff techniques involve inhaling the powdered product into the front of the nose. Snorting the powder, or sniffing too deeply, can result in an unpleasant drip in your throat, as well as a burning sensation in your sinuses. All that is required is enough force to lift the powder into the front of your nose.

The force you need to sniff with will also depend on how finely ground the snuff is. The finest snuffs require only a light draw, while coarser powders may require a little more. It is always recommended that you start out with small quantities and sniff as lightly as possible to begin with, eventually building up gradually to your ideal strength.

How do you pinch snuff?

Many people take snuff by taking a small amount of the powder between their thumb and forefinger; this is known as a 'pinch'. This pinch is placed near one nostril and inhaled through the nose.

The idea is to inhale gently, allowing the powder into the front of your nose. You do not want to inhale the snuff too far into your nose.

What is the anatomical snuffbox?

Many other users prefer to use the back or side of their hands; by placing and spreading a small amount of snuff, they can sniff directly off the skin. The traditionally used area of the hand is known as the anatomical snuffbox, this is a triangular deepening between your thumb and wrist.

This method may be awkward when you are outdoors, as wind may blow the snuff off your hand. The pinching method secures most of the powder in place and prevents this.

Find the right distance from your nose

The distance of the snuff from your nose when sniffing is another important factor to consider. The closer to your nose the snuff is in your fingers or on your hand, the lighter you will need to sniff to lift it into your nose. Miscalculating this distance can result in too much snuff being taken in too deeply.

What is a snuff bullet?

A close up shot of a snuff bullet used to make taking snuff easier

A snuff bullet is an accessory designed to make snuff use easier and more discreet in public situations. These are small bullet-shaped devices that you would use to store a small amount of snuff for use throughout the day.

How to use a snuff bullet

The following is a quick summary of how to use a snuff bullet to administer snuff; please note this process will vary from device to device.

  1. Unscrew the base and fill with snuff. It should be no more than three-quarters full.
  2. Tap the base of the snuff bullet a few times; the base will not have an opening. This brings the powder to the surface.
  3. Place the open end of the bullet in your nostril, being careful not to place too deeply. Remember, you are aiming for the front of your nose, not the nasal cavity.
  4. Sniff gently until you feel the powder entering the front of your nose

Keeping the airways clear

It may sound obvious, but remember that snuff use involves substances entering your nose, and precautions should be taken to ensure your experience is safe and enjoyable. Your nose may react differently to some snuff products than others. Many of the finer snuff powders will dissolve or generally disappear shortly after use; however, others may linger and make your nose run or feel obstructed.

We recommend blowing your nose as much as you feel you need to while taking snuff. This both improves your airways, and will also remove excess snuff which can line the inside of your nose, making subsequent uses less enjoyable.

Why am I sneezing after using snuff?

Needless to say, when you are inhaling powders into the nose, you can expect to sneeze as a reaction. Sneezing is not uncommon, particularly for users who are fairly new to snuff. If you feel you are sneezing excessively, this could be a result of inhaling too much snuff, or drawing it in too far.

What kinds of snuff are there?

Snuff comes in a variety of textures, favours and strengths. While there are too many different types to list here, they can be broadly categorised into the following types.

A close up shot of a wilsons gold label tin of snuff

What is plain snuff?

The most widely used snuff has no scents, flavours or other essences added to them, resulting in a pure and natural flavour favoured by many. Despite this, there are still countless variations of natural snuff, each with unique natural flavours, scents and strengths.

What is toast snuff?

Toasts are generally light in colour, and are named after the toasting process used in manufacturing. This process usually results in a smokier flavour which is preferred by certain users.

What is American Scotch?

SP snuff are a highly popular variety, particularly authentic traditional SP products. Features of SP snuff include traditional flavours and manufacturing methods, with subtle and natural floral or citrus flavours.

What is SP snuff?

SP snuff are a highly popular variety, particularly authentic traditional SP products. Features of SP snuff include traditional flavours and manufacturing methods, with subtle and natural floral or citrus flavours.

What is floral snuff?

Floral snuff products are perfumed with a variety of natural flavourings such as lavender, rose, violet and jasmine. These range from subtle to strong, and sometimes offer a more direct and intense hit.

What is Gourmand snuff?

Gourmand products are flavoured to taste and smell like foods, drinks and desserts. This includes, but is not limited to, fruits, spices, mint, sweet deserts and confectionary.

What is Schmalzler snuff?

Traditionally German, this variety of snuff tends to be moist and coarsely ground, and rich in flavour and scent. Schmalzler snuffs come in a wide variety of flavours, but they tend to be of the sweeter variety. Due to the coarseness and moisture, this can be a messy snuff to use.

What is medicated snuff?

Medicated snuffs are designed to produce cooling or warming effects on the nose when used. Common medicated snuffs include the addition of menthol and eucalyptus blends to produce the desired effects.

Snuff Brands

There are a number of brands currently manufacturing snuff. Below is a list of some of the most famous and reputable:

  1. Wilsons of Sharrow
  2. Fribourg & Treyer
  3. J & H Wilson
  4. McChrystal's
  5. Singleton's
  6. Dr. Rumney's
  7. Hedges
  8. Samuel Gawith
  9. Gawith Hoggarth
  10. Poschl

Find out more information about the individual brands.

Is snuff and dip the same thing?

While they are both smokeless tobacco products, snuff and dip are completely different and should not be confused. Snuff is processed into a powder and inhaled through the nose, as this article has mentioned. Dip (also known as dipping tobacco), is ground or shredded and is placed in your mouth between your lip and gums.

Unlike snuff, dipping tobacco is not currently available to buy in the UK due to an EU-wide ban put in place in 1992.

Is snuff less harmful than smoking?

Snuff is a powdered form of tobacco which is not burned and taken into the lungs; we are therefore not aware of any direct links between snuff and lung cancer.

There are, however, some health risks involved with using smokeless tobacco products, including nose and sinus cancers. Snuff is also a nicotine product and can therefore promote addiction, high blood pressure and other problems.

How is snuff tobacco made?

There are a wide variety of methods used by different snuff manufacturers. Some manufacturers opt for a traditional method, while others use more unorthodox approaches.

A field of tobacco leaves being grown in summer

The manufacturing process for Wilsons & Co nasal snuff follows these steps:

  1. Finding the tobacco – Snuff is made from carefully selected blends of choice tobaccos. These often originate from Africa, where the leaf is particularly suited to the conditions.
  2. Mature & Dry – After a number of maturing processes, the leaf is dried out
  3. Grind – Modern machinery is used to grind and ensure consistent texture and fineness
  4. Sieve – There are several sieving stages to ensure textures are silky and even
  5. Natural oils & fragrances – These are added in precise measures to provide a unique flavour.
  6. Mature – The blended snuff is matured to ensure permeation of flavour
  7. Packaging & shipping – The snuff is then packaged and shipped around the globe

Where can I buy snuff?

A wide range of nasal snuff products can be bought online or in-store at a high street tobacconist.

How do you store snuff?

Taking care to store your snuff correctly is important to ensure the quality of the product endures and that each use is consistently enjoyable. Here are a handful of tips to ensure your snuff retains its quality for as long as you need it.

What is a snuff box?

Put simply, these are small storage containers that are available at most tobacconists. These are purpose built for storing snuff when it is not being used, and can vary greatly in size as well as cost.

Many snuff users consider their snuff boxes to be ornamental, and will sometimes invest in antique, collectable boxes, whereas others are seeking a no-frills storage container. A simple, cheap and effective solution is a standard Tupperware box.

A container of snuff being opened

Where should you store snuff?

Snuff, when stored correctly, can last for a long time and retain its quality and flavour. It is recommended that you store your snuff in a cool, dry place such as a kitchen cupboard or basement.

How long does snuff tobacco keep?

If stored correctly, in a closed container and in a cool, dry place, snuff can keep for a long time without losing its quality or flavour. This does vary depending on snuff type, with dry snuffs generally keeping for longer than the moist varieties, which may need rehydrating every so often to maintain your desired moisture levels.

Nasal care guidelines for snuff users

As you might expect, nasal administration of snuff can, on occasion, irritate. It is important to look after your nose while enjoying snuff to ensure you can continue enjoying it. The human nose is very good at cleaning itself, but there are some further precautions you can take to prevent any nasal problems.

A hot shower with plenty of steam

The steam created by a hot shower can be very helpful at clearing out your nose and sinuses, ensuring a clear passage. A regular snuff user should aim to have a hot shower on a daily basis.

Saline nasal solutions

Some snuff users will use saline nasal solution sprays every once in a while, to help clear their nose and sinuses.

A nasal spray being pressed down

Cotton wool buds

If you feel there is a build-up of snuff inside your nose that simply blowing your nose isn’t solving, try gently working the build-up out with a clean, wet cotton wool bud.

Take a break

If your nose is feeling irritated after a prolonged period of using snuff regularly, consider simply taking a break, and your nose will be able to clear itself.

Is snuff legal in the UK?

Snuff is widely available in the UK and there are no restrictions to its use. It is, however, one of the only smokeless tobacco products (along with chewing tobacco) that is currently legal to sell in the UK. Snus and dipping tobacco are currently restricted and have been in the EU since 1992.

Do you have to pay tobacco products duty on snuff?

No, you do not have to pay tobacco products duty on nasal snuff. Snuff is the only tobacco product available in the UK that the government doesn’t charge duty on.

As a result it is much more reasonably priced than all other tobacco products – this is another reason why many see it is a good alternative to smoking.


This has been a quick beginner’s guide to snuff tobacco, and we hope it can help you get maximum enjoyment out of your preferred snuff products, whether you’re completely new to snuff, or have been enjoying snuff for a while and were looking for further guidance and information.

But your journey and learning doesn't have to end here. There is a wealth of resources both on the Wilsons & Co website and on the wider web, thanks largely to a growing community of snuff enthusiasts. We hope this has been a useful starting point as you explore and enjoy this classic product.

More useful links

Last Updated: Tuesday 4 September 2018