Snuff craze: Swag, fun or cult?

10 May, 2024 - 00:05 0 Views
Snuff craze: Swag, fun or cult? Addiction to snuff is on the rise in Zimbabwe

The ManicaPost


Ray Bande
Senior Reporter

AT the turn of the new millennium, Ashley Nkomo was born in a relatively well to do family in the plush Bordervale Extension low-density suburb of Mutare.

She attended affluent private schools, including private universities that are known more for their expensive tuition fees than their academic excellence.

Upon the completion of her studies, she started working as an accountant at a well-known firm and ideally, she has never known how it feels to be poor.

However, her weakness for snuff (bute), which started when she was in Form Five, has remained the downside of her affluent lifestyle.

Ashley is not the only one trapped in this predicament.

In fact, not so long ago, the catchphrase was: “Girls used to cook like their mothers, but they are now drinking like their fathers”.

To date, it appears as if girls have taken the game a notch higher and are now sniffing snuff like their ancestors!

Women of different age groups, the young and old, are now so much into snuff.

In most public spaces, especially bars and night clubs, the sight of females emptying their snuff bottles is now common.

Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association (ZINATHA) president, Mr George Kandiero, said: “The use of snuff is meant for communication. It is a mode of communication with the spirits. In itself, it is just tobacco. However, in the case of certain types of snuff, it now depends on the intended use.

“There is snuff specifically made for what I can term social warfare (bute rehondo), and there is snuff made for traditional ceremonies (matare). It now depends with the person giving you and what they made that snuff for.”

Mr Kandiero said snuff can be used as a shield against sickness and spiritual attacks.

He said the prevailing snuff craze can better be explained as a matter of people shifting to the use of traditional medicines.

“Snuff is very useful, especially for those staying overseas. Some experience spiritual attacks or nightmares, and they have no one to assist them while in foreign lands.

“They can sniff or bathe with it. It can also be smeared on one’s body, especially when you have a painful part of your body. It is true that many women have moved to using snuff.

“I just think it is a matter of people shifting to the use of traditional medicines. I think people have realised that we had lost our beliefs because snuff has been used since time immemorial.

“Our forefathers used it. So it is a shift to traditional medicine. As you know, women are experimental than us men, we, men also use it, but because of pride, we will look for secretive places to sniff it.

“Therefore, you will find out that there could be an equal amount of men who also use snuff. Some people use it to treat migrant headaches. It is not really for fun when one uses snuff,” said Mr Kandiero.

The ZINATHA president said snuff can also be used to enhance luck in a treasure hunt.

“It is true that snuff can also be used for luck, especially with ladies of the night. They sniff it to hook clients with money. What happens is that when they sniff it and speak to their ancestors in their heart, begging for rich clients, they can get what they ask for,” said the ZINATHA president.

From a Christian perspective, founder of Shield Victory Ministries, Pastor Davies English, said: “I have not come across any verse that forbids the consumption of snuff. However, I know that most people who use snuff are ritualists who go against the word of God especially in Isaiah 8:19.

“Also the Bible teaches us that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, so biblical sense demands that we take very good care of them (our bodies).

“Consuming snuff has no health benefit whatsoever. Actually, health experts tell us that consuming snuff leads to a lot of health complications.”

A cursory internet search on, revealed that like cigarettes, snuff contains harmful chemicals.

“Although exposure to these chemicals is lower than when smoking tobacco, inhaling snuff is still unhealthy and can be addictive. Snuff is a tobacco product. If you think smoking cigarettes is not healthy, but snuff is safe, think again!

“Like other tobacco products like cigarettes, pipe tobacco, and chewing tobacco, snuff scan still lead to a substance use disorder,” reads part of an article on snuff on
To produce snuff, tobacco is dried and finely ground.

There are two main types of snuff: dried and moist.

In a 2014 report, the National Cancer Institute and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found out that more than 40 types of smokeless tobacco products are used by nose or mouth by more than 300 million people around the world — including snuff.

To use dried snuff, people inhale the ground tobacco into their nasal cavity.


To use moist snuff, also known as “dipping,” people put the tobacco between their lower lips or cheek and gum.


The nicotine from the tobacco is absorbed through the lining of the nose or mouth.

The CDC warns that smokeless tobacco products are harmful to one’s health and contain nicotine, which has a strong link to the development of addiction.

It further notes that while some might think that using snuff is not as dangerous as smoking because one would not be inhaling smoke into their lungs, snuff can still negatively affect your body.

Like other forms of tobacco, snuff contains chemicals that can cause cancer.


According to the American Cancer Society (ACS)Trusted Source, people who dip or chew snuff ingest about as much nicotine as people who regularly smoke cigarettes.


Also, they get exposed to more than 25 chemicals known to cause cancer.

In fact, it notes that, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) are the strongest of the cancer-causing substances in smokeless tobacco.

TSNA levels differ among products.


Those with higher levels carry a greater risk of negative health effects.

The CDC warns that smokeless products can raise your risk of several types of cancer, including: oral cancers, oesophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.

The CDC also warns that using smokeless tobacco products may increase one’s risk of death from heart disease and stroke, increase the chance of premature birth and stillbirth if one is pregnant and causes nicotine poisoning in children if they accidentally ingest the substance.

A 2019 research by CDC found a significant association between smokeless tobacco use and risk of death from coronary heart disease, especially among European users.

The researchers pointed to the need to include smokeless tobacco in public tobacco cessation efforts.

Using moist snuff can also yellow one’s teeth, sour one’s breath, lead to tooth decay and gum infections, and in some cases jaw complications or loss of teeth resulting in bone loss and face disfigurement.


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