Wilson of Sharrow have advertised with the same slogan for the last two hundred years.

'Smoke when you can, snuff when you can't'.

As smoking declines in both popularity and legality; this advice is becoming relevant to a new generation of tobacco users who are choosing to insufflate rather than smoke.

Therefore to remain 'up to snuff, and a pinch above' It is imperative that a young gentleman learns the correct manner for snuff-taking. Here follows an etiquette guide for the new snuff user:

Traditionally gentlemen do not take snuff when ladies are present.
However if you are in a situation where modern interaction would usually allow both sexes to smoke, for example a public house, then it is acceptable.
Formal etiquette dictates that women abstain from tobacco until at least fifty years of age. (Had Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, heeded this advice she might have avoided the nickname 'Snuffy Charlotte')

Your snuffbox should be chosen for the occasion.
For example a silver, ivory or mother-of-pearl snuffbox is appropriate for a formal event, and a brass or teak snuffbox is appropriate for watching rugger. A snuff-pouch is not considered a suitable container because the snuff will often become too moist. Pewter is a definite no-no as the metal is too soft.

Napoleon was once given a fragile mother-of-pearl snuffbox by Empress Josephine. When it broke through overuse Napoleon was distraught until Josephine gave him another one.
This demonstrates two things, firstly that there are consequences for not using an appropriately robust snuffbox, and secondly that cry babies do not make good Emperors.

Take the snuffbox from your pocket and pass it into your left hand.
Your inner left jacket pocket should be used to store all tobacco products.
(Star Trek Trivia: Which cast member from the original series had his life saved by keeping his silver cigarette case in the incorrect pocket?*)

Tap the snuffbox with your middle and forefinger so that the powdered tobacco gathers at one side.
This will also alert your acquaintances that snuff is about to be passed around.

Open the snuffbox and inspect the contents.
Check that the tobacco is not damp and that it is finely powdered If it is unusable, or if there is insufficient snuff to provide for the group, there is no shame in returning the snuffbox at this point.

Present the snuffbox to the surrounding company with a courteous bow.
The snuffbox travels clockwise and should only be held in the left hand. This is reminiscent of the way port is passed.

Receive the snuffbox back with the left hand.
Gather the snuff by striking the side with the middle and forefinger.

Take a pinch with the right hand, between thumb and forefinger.

Hold the snuff for a second or two between the fingers before taking.
Apart from allowing sufficient time to pass the snuffbox forward without keeping people waiting, this is also to display that you are not greedily hoarding the snuffbox.

Carry the pinch to the nose.
Never lean towards your hand. If anything snuff should be taken with your head tilted slightly backwards. Snuff can also be taken from an indentation formed at the base of the thumb. If you place your hand flat on the table with your fingers spread. Then as you raise the thumb this will reveal what is known as 'The Anatomical Snuffbox 'or colloquially 'The Poorman's Snuffbox'.
This method is not recommended because the valuable snuff is far more likely to spill.

Snuff with precision by both nostrils and without grimaces or distortion of the features.
This is a very important point of differentiation between British and European snuff-takers. On the continent it is acceptable to let out a large sneeze after taking, however in Britain that is considered quite rude.

It is also very important that you sniff but do not snort. The snuff should not enter deeply into the sinuses.
Contrary to this advice in 1820 the double barrelled snuff pistol was invented; it was capable of packing a day's worth of snuff into the nose using an explosive charge. This kind of behaviour would be considered vulgar by anyone’s standards.

Close snuffbox with a flourish.
Return the snuffbox to your jacket pocket.

Wipe nose and collar with a handkerchief.
Specialist handkerchiefs are available, they are usually colourful, patterned and silken. They are made to be thrown away because they will rapidly become soiled dark brown whenever the nose runs.

It is an important addition to this guide to note that some books on etiquette jocularly advised against taking snuff. Consider this anecdote that appeared in 'Hints on Etiquette':

"Doctor," said an old gentleman, who was an inveterate snuff-taker, to a physician, "is it true that snuff destroys the olfactory nerves, clogs and otherwise injures the brain?" "It cannot be true" was the caustic reply, "since those who have any brains never take snuff at all".


Snuff history

  • http://www.vam.ac.uk/images/image/10121-popup.html
  • http://www.mcchrystals.com/en/geschichte.html
  • http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=s&p=30
  • http://www.wordorigins.org/wordoru.htm
  • http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-upt1.htm
Snuff anecdotes
  • http://www.snuffexpress.com/snuff_history3.htm
  • http://www.sheffieldexchange.com/nasal.htm
  • http://www.antoranz.net/CURIOSA/ZBIOR2/C0304/04en-QZC05010_tabaka.HTM
  • http://www.snuffbox.org.uk/hto.htm
Health issues
  • http://www.lahacal.org/gentleman/vice.html
  • http://www.maxillofacialcenter.com/TobaccoEffects.html#Use
  • http://www.toucaned.com/Products/Tobacco/EnoughSnuff.html
Star Trek trivia
  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001150/bio

Book references

Finally! I have done a w/u without referring to that damnable device of Satan (now lets see what I missed!)

*James Doohan or 'Scotty' was shot all the way up his right hand side during the Normandy invasion. His life was saved by a cigarette holder in his right hand breast pocket. He also lost the middle finger on his right hand.