Appalachia children

Pretend Tobacco

cocoa powder in spoon

“My granny dipped snuff.  She washed out a snuff tin and cut me a toothbrush.  She mixed cocoa powder and sugar in the tin to make my “snuff” so we could dip together.  It’s a wonder I didn’t have tons of cavities but I didn’t.”

—NCMountainWoman 2015


I never pretended to dip snuff but us kids were always pretending to smoke cigarettes. Pap said when he was a boy they’d smoke grapevines and pretend they were cigarettes.

Since the vine is hollow, Pap said you could even blow smoke rings sometimes.

One of my friends wanted to be just like her aunt when she was a small girl. The aunt was a smoker so she decided she’d be a smoker too. She rolled up pages from a magazine for her cigarettes. Luckily her mother went to check on her just about the time she set the bed on fire saving her and their house.

Pap smoked before his heart surgery. He used Prince Albert tobacco and rolled his own. I can never see an old can in an antiques store that I don’t think of him…and of course all the prank calls about letting Prince Albert out of the can 🙂


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  • Reply
    Vera Guthrie
    October 26, 2020 at 1:19 pm

    I always had my tin of “snuff” in my pocketbook. I could even get the correct dip in the lid and in my mouth with no mess. The drawback was my “snuff” was no help for a bee sting.

  • Reply
    Allen Jones
    November 9, 2019 at 9:20 am

    When my Grandma turned 100 years old I asked her when she started dipping snuff. She said her momma gave her her first dip at 8 years old. That was 92 years of dipping snuff.
    Well everybody kept telling her snuff wasn’t good for your health. Well she passed away at 101 years old but not from tobacco. Maybe she lived longer because of it, don’t know.
    Miss her bunches.

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    October 18, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    Speaking of Tobacco, I heard the following conversation as a boy in about 1959:

    “Tha doctor me that I ortta stop chewin’ ‘baccer. He said chawin’ and smokin’ and dippin’ snuff ain’t good fer a body.”
    “I ast him if he had tha okay ta be a doctor in No’th Ca’lina. He said he did. I asted him if they knowed he was talkin’ ‘gainst ‘baccer. Most everbody in No’th Ca’lina makes their livin’ from ‘baccer. He laughed at me an’ said that some Surgery General feller , I guess he is prob’ly in tha Army iffen he’s a General, says that it is bad fer folks an don’t do it. I figger since Ah aint in tha Army, it’s okay.”

  • Reply
    October 18, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    My Grandpa rolled and smoked Prince Albert tobaca, whince plenty of empty Price Albert cans around. I would put my MARBLES in the cans ( marbles fit perfectly in a Prince Albert can ), and put in my back pocket of the overhalls to carry to school each day, always came home with a empty can !!!
    My mother and grandma dipped snuff, and again plenty of empty snuff cans round. My mother would wash out the empty cans and sifted dirt in the cans ( we were poor as church mice and could not afford Cocoa ) and she taught us kids how to make a snuff dipper from a Black Gum twig. We would dip and eat the dirt, all day most days, but we had to wash our hands before eating at her table. Mom taught us how to sift dirt from underneath the house because it was dry and not sticky, but always warned us kids not to use dirt with WHITE stuff in it, ( chickens were also under the house ), free range chickens. All the children grew up strong, with an occasional taste for dirt !!!!!

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    October 18, 2019 at 2:47 pm

    When I was a child growing up seems like just about all the women up the holler rubbed snuff. and i do remember mixing up cocoa and sugar and pretending. Kids also rolled corn silk up in torn pieces of paper bags and pretended to smoke.

  • Reply
    Nancy Rucker Schmidt
    October 18, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    My mother, in Townsend Tennessee early 1900’s, told me that she and her youngest aunt used to roll mullein leaves and smoke them behind the barn. I believe it was commonly called “rabbit tobacco” around there at least. I expect they were 10- 15 years old about that time, and thought themselves very naughty.

  • Reply
    Glynda ParkerChambers
    October 18, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Hey Tipper, this was so much fun. We did pretend Snuff too. I remember I used to put a big dip of it in my lower lip and leave it for a while then I could spit like it was really snuff. Great memory, thanks for showing this today, I had actually forgotten about this.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Old paper sacks and rabbit tobacco was our smoking choice as kids, then graduated to Marlboros a teenager, stopped smoking within the first year of marriage havent regretted it yet.

  • Reply
    Charles Howell
    October 18, 2019 at 10:40 am

    My Grandmother dipped sweet snuff with a tiny silver spoon. She placed the powder between her lower lip and gum. I remember the slight brown trickle down her chin. It was part of her charming self. The men in that part of North Carolina either used stronger snuff, chewed or smoked, usually “Roll your own” cigarettes. Kids tried it all. We smoked cornsilk, ragweed seeds, grapevine and coffee in a homemade corncob pipe. I started smoking my dad’s Lucky Strikes in the sixth grade, when I could snitch one, but we boys all preferred “Crooks” cigars. No longer do I smoke or chew anything. I’m better off. Glory Days in Robbinsville N. C. remembered.

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    October 18, 2019 at 10:21 am

    My granny USED tobacco as they often said. She kept a little green twig frayed on the business end and stuck it in the can of Bruton snuff. She also USED DAYS WORK plug tobacco. It smelled so good. She would cut off a luttle piece about the size of half of a dime and hold it in her mouth. I never remember he spitting. On Sundays after dinner she would cover the table with a pretty table cloth and leave the food on the table for an early supper. All the grown-ups would go sit on the front porch in the summer. That Days Work smelled so good to a 6 or 7 yr old. One afternoon I slipped in the back door, got the little paring knife she used, reached in the cupboard and got the plug of tobacco and cut off the appropriate size chew that she used. Silently I put everything back in place and slipped back out the door. I hurried out behind the smoke house and went to chewing on that fine smelling stuff. You know of course the rest of the story. The chew was hot, strong and any other foul word you can think of. Yep, I gagged some, spit it out and hurried to water bucket and dipper. I was cured of any desire for tobacco.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 18, 2019 at 9:56 am

    I was up to almost 2 packs a day when I quit. It was in 86, Mama had died and I wanted to do something for her. I quit and hadn’t touched one since. Winstons was what I smoked when I got to making money of my own.

    When I was in the 8th grade my class went to see how cigarettes were made. We went to the R. J. Reynolds Plant in Winston-Salem. There they gave me a Long Cigarette almost 3 or 4′ long that hadn’t been cut yet. (I was Smokin’ before I went to School, so I wanted to work there.) The employees had been told we were coming, so they were sitting on boxes, and one guy was lying down to show us how easily it was to work there. His job was to turn the boxes of Cartons of Cigarettes over as they came down the assembly line.

    When we got back on the bus and started back, we laughed at how some folks tried their best to make us believe that’s the way it was. …Ken

  • Reply
    Mary Johnson
    October 18, 2019 at 9:40 am

    When I was coming up we used to hide in the corn patch and smoke dried cornsilk. Didn’t taste good but we thought we were so sinful.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    October 18, 2019 at 9:16 am

    I tried smoking grape vines and corn silk wrapped in newspaper. Always took a coughing fit. The thing I did the most was chewing life ever lasting but I don’t remember ever smoking it. Probably did.
    I remember the one about Prince Albert and RC in a bottle but can’t remember any of the other ones right now. A friend of mine (Rufus} in high school loved calling people at random on the phone and asking them this sort of stuff. One night a bunch of us boys were at another friends house when Rufus went to calling people out of the phone book and telling them their son had stoned his horse to death. You’d be surprised at the number of people that took him serious at least for a while. One lady got a big kick out of the call and played right along and we could all hear her laughing. It turned out her son was grown and didn’t live in the state.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2019 at 9:00 am

    Dad rolled his own Prince Albert cigarettes, too. Mom cut strips out of the empty can that was a flexible tin and used them to curl our hair. I don’t remember the strips having sharp edges as I’m sure they did. Like Pap, he had heart surgery that went well, except he got in trouble with his lungs. After years of smoking and working in the coal mines, his heart and lungs paid the price.
    As a child, I smoked rabbit backer rolled in a torn piece of paper poke.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    October 18, 2019 at 8:57 am

    I think about how times change. When I was a kid, the drugstore in town sold bubble gum cigarettes. If you really blew hard, you could shoot out confectionery sugar like smoke.

    Sometimes, as a treat, we’d get a pack and share them with the neighbor kids.

    Reading your blog this morning, I got a picture on my head of a bunch of 8 yr old boys wearing white t-shirts, standing around a red wagon, all with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths.

    That gives me a chuckle. I’m also glad no big city photographer didn’t catch that as an example of “Appalachian Youth in Decline.”

  • Reply
    October 18, 2019 at 8:51 am

    Wow….that takes me back to my childhood in an instant… My Pop and Mam owned a small independent grocery store and meat market… Mam had stocked plenty of penny candy for us kids…among them were packs of “candy cigarettes”. Remember them…? They came in a pack of ten or twelve….don’t recall for certain and were skinnier than #2 Ticonderoga elementary school pencils…and just slightly shorter than a real cigarette and they had red food coloring at the tip to mimic a real lit cigarette. I do miss my Mam & Pop…

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 18, 2019 at 8:22 am

    I used cocoa powder as snuff too but not mixed with sugar. I was a manly boy. I could take mine straight up.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 18, 2019 at 8:02 am

    We smoked life everlasting, also known as pearly everlasting. As siob as it frosts it will easy to spot because the stems and undersides of rhe leaves are cottony white. It has a nice sweet kind of smell. Smoking it or a pillow stuffed with it is supposed to be good for asthma. When I am out and about I tend to strip off handfuls and put them in my shirt pocket just for the smell.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      October 18, 2019 at 12:51 pm

      Is that something like rabbit tobacco? The description seems to fit.

      • Reply
        Ron Stephens
        October 18, 2019 at 2:57 pm

        Yep. One and the same Mr. Ammons. We called it rabbit tobacco to, just dis-remembered that this morning.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2019 at 7:39 am

    In earlier days many smoked. I can remember patients and visitors smoking right in the room. We would often have to scat out a visitor smoking around oxygen. No wonder so many children chose to emulate. I often heard them talk about smoking corn silks after they dried. I tried it once and almost singed my brows. I remember collecting the little snuff cans from older members of the family.

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