11 MARCH 1966, Page 29


Feeling the Pinch


I RISH High Toast, Vanity Fair, Royal Cardinal

and Café (not Casino) Royale may sound like racehorses, and indeed they could win by a nose. According to the Snuff Centre's list they are only four out of a possible fifty sniffing tobaccos at present being celebrated in Edinburgh during 'snuff month.' Travellers on the London Under- ground may have seen a poster urging snuff- taking in four languages. Like cigar-smoking, snuff-taking is undergoing a revival not uncon- nected with a certain wariness towards cigarettes attended by an unquenchable desire to use to- bacco, but in some less prejudicial form.

The Snuff Centre (actually G. Smith and Sons, 74 Charing Cross Road, WC2) has eighty years' experience of dispensing the magic powder, 'the leaf of the tobacco . . . ground to a powder in oak mortars by iron pestles,' then finely sieved and treated with oil of carnation, jasmine, sandal- wood, peppermint or cloves. They recommend the use of it as a refreshment, a medicine and a social lubricant. I have a personal recollection of spending some hours in the relaxing com- pany of Raymond Francis (alias Chief Superin- tendent Lockhart) as a consequence of asking him idly and not entirely politely about his 'affectation.' We took his snuff (I never thought to ask him which blend he used) and declared that, although it was quite a pleasant sensation, it was not for us to make a habit of it.

Now I learn that Smith's biggest customers are public school boys and suspect that a trend is in the setting. Way-out chaps who want to stay there should send for the literature: 'Make Friends with Snuff,' a copy of Mrs. Margaret Thompson's Remarkable Will (she died in 1777 and was buried with all her unwashed snuff handkerchiefs), the snuff list and the snuff-box catalogue. At least, we've heard no dismal statistics about this habit. And the Royal Army Medical Corps mess at Millbank take it regu- larly after dinner, with due ceremony, President first. It's not to be sneezed at.