What are the side effects of snuff

snuffSnuff is a stimulating luxury product that consists of pulverized and fermented tobacco, to which additives and flavorings are added. It is placed on the back of the hand and slowly drawn into the nostril. Snuff contains the psychoactive alkaloid nicotine. After administration, it quickly enters the bloodstream and the central nervous system via the nasal mucous membrane, where it has stimulating, relaxing and psychotropic effects. Snuff is less harmful than smoking because no combustion products are formed. But the cold damages the nasal mucous membrane with long-term use and the tobacco can contain carcinogenic substances. Nicotine often leads to dependence.

Synonymous: Schnupf, Dry Snuff, Snuff


Snuff is available in numerous varieties in kiosks, tobacco shops and web shops, for example. It is usually contained in small metal cans.

Snuff, click to enlarge. Photo © PharmaWiki

Structure and properties

Snuff consists of powdered and fermented tobacco. It is brown in color and has an aromatic odor. Tobacco is made from the dried leaves of the tobacco plant (Nicotiana tabacum, Nicotiana rustica) obtained from the nightshade family, which is native to South America.

It also contains additives and flavorings such as menthol, peppermint oil, spices, herbs and sugar. The Tobacco Ordinance regulates which substances are allowed. The active ingredient is the alkaloid nicotine. The addition of bases can improve the uptake into the bloodstream because nicotine is deprotonated and, as a free base, crosses membranes better.


Nicotine has psychoactive, stimulating, activating, relaxing and anti-anxiety properties. It promotes alertness and concentration. The runny nose can cause a slight dizziness and a slight drowsiness. The effects of nicotine are based, among other things, on binding to nicotinic acetylcholine receptors and the increased release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin in the central nervous system.

The nicotine is quickly absorbed from the tobacco via the nasal blood vessels into the bloodstream and from there reaches the brain. Even with nasal administration, sufficient plasma concentrations comparable to smoking are achieved (Russell et al., 1981).

application areas

As a luxury food.

Snuff is not recommended for smoking cessation. Various drugs containing nicotine are available for this purpose.


A pinch of the powder is placed on the back of the hand and slowly drawn into a nostril. Nasal administration often induces an urge to sneeze. The cold is often carried out in a group and linked to rituals and sayings.

unwanted effects

Sniffing is less harmful than tobacco smoking, since no carbon monoxide or carcinogenic combustion products are produced when it is consumed. But tobacco itself also contains carcinogenic substances such as nitrosamines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrites and heavy metals. The load depends on the product. Whether snuff can actually cause cancer is controversial in the literature.

Regular use can damage the nasal mucosa and lead to symptoms such as a blocked nose, secretions, inflammation (chronic rhinitis), edema and changes in the mucous membrane (e.g. Sreedharan et al., 2005).

Because of the nicotine it contains, snuff can be addictive and addictive. Nicotine itself can also trigger various side effects, → see under Nicotine.

According to the Tobacco Ordinance, every pack of tobacco products that are not intended for smoking must bear the following warning: "This tobacco product can damage your health and is addictive".

see also

Nicotine, smoking, snus, shisha

  • Federal Institute for Risk Assessment
  • German Cancer-research center. Smokeless Tobacco Products: All forms of tobacco are harmful to health. Heidelberg, 2006
  • Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin. Nicotine and health. BMJ, 2014, 349 Pubmed
  • Manufacturer's information (Pöschl Tabak)
  • Russell M.A., Jarvis M.J., Devitt G., Feyerabend C. Nicotine intake by snuff users. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed), 1981, 283 (6295), 814-7 Pubmed
  • Sapundzhiev N., Werner J.A. Nasal snuff: historical review and health related aspects. J Laryngol Otol, 2003, 117 (9), 686-91 Pubmed
  • Sreedharan S. et al. Effect of snuff on nasal mucosa. Am J Otolaryngol, 2005, 26 (3), 151-6 Pubmed
  • Tobacco Ordinance
  • World Health Organization

Conflicts of Interest: None / Independent. The author has no relationships with the manufacturers and is not involved in the sale of the products mentioned.

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This article was last changed on April 30, 2019.
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