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A pile of naswar

Naswār (Pashto: نصوار‎), nās and nasvay (Cyrillic: Насвай); Niswar) is a moist, powdered tobacco snuff (similar to dipping tobacco or snus) consumed mostly in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Naswar is stuffed in the floor of the mouth, under the lower lip, or inside the cheek for extended periods of time.


Naswar was introduced into Western Europe by a Spanish monk named Ramon Pane after Columbus' second voyage to the Americas during 1493-1496.[1] In 1561, Jean Nicot, the French ambassador in Lisbon, Portugal, sent naswar to Catherine de' Medici to treat her son's persistent migraines.[2]

Use in Afghanistan[edit]

The green powder form is used most frequently. It is made by pouring water into a cement-line cavity, to which lime or juniper is added as flavorings, and then air-cured, sun-dried, powdered tobacco is added. Indigo is added to the mixture to impart color.


There are two forms of naswar; powder, and a paste cake style mixed with lime. A very pungent and powerful smell, yet a subtle flavor as it mixes with the saliva. The nicotine effect can occur within 5 minutes after intake producing a slight burn to the inner lip and tongue.

Naswar has a very distinct smell resembling that of a fresh bale of coastal hay.


Readily available in most Afghan tobacco shops, the average cost for a small 15 gram package is 10 afs (December 2013 exchange rate: 10.00 AFN ).


Sun and heat-dried tobacco leaves, slaked lime, ash from tree bark, and flavoring and coloring agents are mixed together. Water is added and the mixture is rolled into balls.[3]

Nass: tobacco, ash, cotton or sesame oil,[4] water, and sometimes gum.[5]

Naswar, niswar: tobacco, slaked lime, indigo, cardamom, oil, menthol, water.


In November 2006 an editorial in the newspaper Daily Times in Pakistan caused some controversy over its allegedly biased representations of Pashtun predilection for naswar.[6]

Side effects[edit]

The major side effect of using naswar is addiction, and it becomes difficult to get rid of it. As the lime is added, it is also increasingly known that Naswar often causes mouth and throat cancer.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bourne, G. E.: Columbus, Ramon Pane, and the Beginnings of American Anthropology (1906), Kessinger Publishing, 2003, page 5
  2. ^ McKenna, T.: Food of the Gods - The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge - A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution, Bantam Books, 1993, page 199
  3. ^ Trends in tobacco use (2001c). [On-line]. Available:
  4. ^ US Department of Health and Human Services. Health consequences of using smokeless tobacco: a report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General. Bethesda, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1986.
  5. ^ Doshi, S. (2001). Tobacco. [On-line]. Available:
  6. ^

External links[edit]