Yes, it’s true. I am an author who smokes a pipe. Now I just need a leather bomber jacket, an adventurer’s hat and a bottle of whiskey and I’ll have finally achieved my lifelong goal of turning myself into a great big ol’ stereotype. In all seriousness though, I started smoking a pipe when I was in my early twenties. I smoked for a while, but then stopped doing it for years before I started smoking the occasional cigar once in a while, mostly because it was less work and took less attention, but there was always something about pipe smoking that for me was far more special than smoking a cigar will ever be. Now mind you, that’s not to put down cigars at all. I really enjoy a good cigar, but it’s not a pipe, and it never will be.
So why is smoking a pipe so special? Well, for one thing, there’s a massive variety of tobacco blends to choose from that are all within a certain price range of one another, whereas with cigars you can go from very cheap to mortgage the house expensive. That’s an exaggeration of course, but some cigars are extremely spendy for just one smoke. For around $40 I can get a pound of one of my favorite blends of pipe tobacco and smoke on that for quite some time before I ever even have to think about buying more.
Then there’s the pipes themselves. There are a wide variety of shapes and styles of pipes. Some are super fancy, some are more plain, some are made from corncobs, meerschaum, gourd, pear or other woods, though the vast majority of wood pipes are made of briar. Because there are so many different styles and makers of pipes, collecting them can become a hobby in and of itself.
The almost ritualistic nature of pipe smoking is what appeals to me the most however, and what makes it so completely relaxing. You load the bowl in a very specific way, light it, tamp it, and then if necessary, you light it again and go from there. The experienced and attentive pipe smoker can get through an entire bowl on a single light. The more casual pipe smoker may need to relight it several times as he smokes his way down the bowl, simply because unlike cigarettes, and somewhat unlike cigars, pipes will go out on you if you go too long in between draws. When you’re done smoking, you clean the bowl and the stem in a very specific way as well to complete the ritual.
The room note of a good pipe tobacco will allow you to enjoy the smoke long after it’s over. Unlike cigarettes, and unlike some cigars, the room note of various pipe tobaccos can be absolutely enchanting. To be fair however, there are some blends that leave a room note that’s absolutely ghastly. For instance, I had a hazelnut blend that I absolutely abhor. The room note it leaves behind isn’t horrific, but it isn’t overly pleasant either. If I were to compare it to anything, I would say it leaves the room smelling much like a bowling alley from the 1970s.
You find the special, wonderful smelling blends through trial and error, just as you do with the not so pleasant ones. I smoke blends from Milan Tobacconists almost exclusively, and I’ve found a wide variety of blends from them that are absolutely wonderful. My two favorites at the moment are Evening Stroll and Sunset Rum, which is the one I’ll be smoking this evening as I contemplate the next scene in my latest book and how I want it to play out.
The anti-tobacco fascists without exception use tobacco as a general term. The truth however is that there’s a huge difference between cigarettes, which are meant to be inhaled, and cigar and pipe tobacco, which is not. The processing of cigar and pipe tobacco as compared to cigarette tobacco is also vastly different. Pipe and cigar tobaccos are far cleaner and more natural than cigarette tobacco. So not only are they cleaner and less damaging, but because they’re not inhaled, you can smoke them in relative safety. A well known YouTuber recently asked his doctor about smoking a pipe occasionally, and he was told that it was just fine, and that he’d likely never encounter any negative effects from it. That’s another thing about pipes and cigars, is that typically they’re an occasional smoke rather than an all day one, as you see with cigarette smokers. Even frequent pipe smokers will likely not smoke more than twice a day at the most. Compare that with a pack a day smoker who’s sucking all that smoke into his lungs.
In the end though, I smoke a pipe for one specific reason that far outweighs any of the others. I enjoy it, and that’s the only reason that really matters.
“A pipe is the fountain of contemplation, the source of pleasure, the companion of the wise; and the man who smokes, thinks like a philosopher and acts like a Samaritan.”
-Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton