How do I take up pipe smoking?
April 26, 2005 5:41 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to switch from smoking cigarettes to smoking a pipe...

I've been a pack-a-day smoker for about a decade now, and I think that I'd like to move away from that particular habit to smoking a pipe, and I have a few questions about it:

1) What should I initially get at the tobacco shop? Do I just need to get a corncob pipe and their finest, cheapest tobacco?
2) Can I manage to have a nice smoke break at work with a pipe, or is it simply too much effort every hour?
3) How, exactly, do you smoke a pipe? I've heard that you shouldn't inhale the smoke, so how does that work? Will I annoy the crap out of the guy at the shop by asking for a demonstration?
4) How do you pack tobacco in the bowl? Do you have to constantly use a lighter to keep the tobacco lit?
5) Will I get my ass beaten by smoking a pipe in a bar?
6) Is it more expensive than smoking cigarettes?
posted by cmonkey to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm only a casual pipe smoker, and as such I cannot really answer your questions in detail. However, I can point you to this marvelous answer in a previous "how do I smoke a pipe?" thread. I loved this answer so much that I printed it (and its follow-ups) out and keep it downstairs on my Scotch and tobacco shelf. It's that good.

But, just for kicks, I say:

1) You can get a decent wood pipe for ~$30. I'd recommend one of those. A tobacconist will have a ten to twenty good bulk pipe tobaccoes. Until you find one you like, it's all arbitrary. Just find one you like the sound of, and pick it. You can buy a cheap $3 bag of the stuff.

2) I wouldn't try to smoke a pipe every hour, but then I only smoke mine once every week or two. I'm just not a smoker.

3) I don't inhale the smoke; I merely take it into my mouth and hold it there. When I'm done, I exhale. Sometimes I accidentally inhale the stuff and then I cough up a storm. Again, I'm not really a smoker.

4) I've found that it's best to just lightly pack the tobacco. Packing it too much must prevent oxygen from circulating. The thing goes out more often. And, yes, even if you just pack the stuff lightly, you'll have to relight the bowl often. I use matches, not a lighter.

5) I have no answer; I don't go to bars.

6) I doubt it's more expensive than smoking cigarettes. An ounce of tobacco lasts for several smokes, and doesn't cost very much. I could be wrong, though; I'm not a smoker, as I've mentioned a zillion times. :)

I like smoking my pipe now and then. It's fun! Good luck!
posted by jdroth at 6:15 PM on April 26, 2005

Former cigarette smoker (30+ a day at the top of my habit), former sometimes pipe smoker, son of a pipe smoker (that sounds like some kind of obscure insult... you son of a...)

1. I'd agree with jdroth, spring for a decent pipe. Even if you don't take to it you can use it for extra-distinguished photos on the backs of your novels. A good tobacco store will have decent store blends available in bulk for a very reasonable price.

2. I've known people who did, though hardcore pipe smokers are a rarity these days. There's no reason you shouldn't be able to pack a bowl as you head out and have it going less than a minute out the door. Finishing is as simple as giving it a good knock into the ashtray.

3. In essence you draw the smoke into your mouth with by drawing back with your tongue and then release it without ever inhaling it into your lungs. Pipe and cigar tobacco are cured differently than cigarette tobacco and are incredibly harsh on the lungs. Pipesmokers are such a rarity now the tobacco store guy might get a kick out of trying to explain the subtle art of smoking a pipe to you.

4. The method discussed in the pipe thread jdroth links is pretty comprehensive. Pipes do go out a lot easier than cigarettes or cigars if you don't keep puffing. A little relighting does seem to be part of the process. Butane lighters are easiest, they do make lighters with a form factor especially for pipes.

5. Some will, some won't. If they are cigar-friendly, they will probably accept a pipe. If they don't like cigars or clove cigarettes (which, along with pipes, are much stronger and more pungent than cigarette tobacco, though in my book pipe smoke is generally more pleasant smelling than cigarette smoke which always smells nasty) Just ask a waitress or bartender. I have seen cigar afficianado guides that give listings of cigar-friendly bars, but I don't recall any specifics. As far as patron responses... no first-hand knowledge, I've never smoked a pipe in a bar. But again, if people are smoking cigars I think a pipe is probably kosher.

6. It all depends on what you smoke and how much and how often. Ounce for ounce of tobacco, I'd guess cheaper, because you can routinely buy non-branded, lightly packaged (just a big ziplock) tobacco in bulk, as opposed to cigarettes where you tend to buy branded, manufactured, heavily packaged tobacco in daily-ration sized amounts.

Answers for questions you didn't ask - pipe smokers still get cancer, though at lower rates than cigarette smokers, and tending more to the esophagus, stomach, larynx, and sinus regions.

You may also find the transition hard. Cigarettes, particularly mass-produced commercial cigarettes like Marlboros and Camels, deliver a fast, strong spike of nicotine. As a pack a day smoker you are strongly habituated to getting that dose each time you puff. When smoking a pipe nicotine is absorbed more slowly through the mucus membranes of the mouth and throat. While it delivers the sensual satisfaction of the act of smoking I found (the first time I quit cigarettes for a serious length of time) that pipes and cigars sometimes made me pine for a cigarette even more. My dad has tried several times to transition away from cigarettes to just pipe and cigars but could never stay away from the cigarettes. But hey, everybody is different so good luck.

DAMN I'd like a cigarette right now. Oh well, life goes on. (You have just heard the entirety of my comprehensive program for quitting smoking.) Note to self, stay out of smoker threads.
posted by nanojath at 7:12 PM on April 26, 2005

I took up pipe smoking for a few months, and I found this FAQ to be useful.
posted by autojack at 7:57 PM on April 26, 2005

Lots of good advice up there, but one more thing to remember: smoking a pipe will do pretty much nothing for your cigarette jones, other than the ritual -- it won't meet your nicotine needs. I can't tell if that's part of your plan or not from the phrasing of the question, though.
posted by mendel at 9:26 PM on April 26, 2005

I agree with nanojath - pipe-smoking isn't (for me, at least) an effective anti-cigarette smoking cesation method. The nicotine delivery parameters are totally different.

As for pipes - *don't* inhale. Like cigars, pipe tabacco is cured differently; the pH difference means that you can absorb the nicotine through your mouth tissues, but it's even more inefficient (and leaves much more residue) through the lungs.

I used to smoke pipes as a change of pace (cigarette smoker, used to be 1 - 2 packs/day, down to 1 -2 pakcs/3 - 4 days now) and I liked the various cavendish's. A quality, heavy, pipe smokes nicer than a cheap one. I particularly liked the clays.

If you want to quit cigarettes but not nicotine, Swedish snus (lazy - first non-blatantly commercial google link returned) works better than any smoking alternative (for me). (there're studies that Snus is less mouth-carcinogenic than chaw (chewing tabacy) &c&c... it's a little salty, less numbing, doesn't elicit as much salivation as chaw).
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:05 PM on April 26, 2005

Cheaper? Maybe. Hotter? Oh yes.

Guys with pipes are just generally hot. Spring for the non-corn cob pipe bling just to pick up the girlies (if that's your inclination).
posted by Gucky at 1:07 AM on April 27, 2005

If you can keep the pipe smoking at home, a corn cob is a great way to start. Cheap and smooth from the beginning. Other pipes require you to season them (by smoking).

I gave up my pipe years ago because I found I spent too much time fidgeting with the thing.

I inhaled pipe smoke without being aware of a problem. But yes, I did seem to have to hit the pipe harder to satisfy the desire for nicotine.

Just as all cigars don't smell nasty, all pipe tobacco does not smell nice. But mostly pipe smoke is pleasant and can even be enjoyed by non-smokers. This won't get you past those with a fanatical knee-jerk reaction against any smoking where they feel free to bitch about it.
posted by Goofyy at 5:10 AM on April 27, 2005

As a message to all of the pipe smokers in the world: Please do not smoke while driving. Airbag deployment becomes much more gruesome when a person is smoking a pipe. Airbags deploy with significant force at high speed, and the consequences of having a pipe in your mouth are generally not good.
posted by tumble at 10:14 AM on April 27, 2005

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