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My Short Stint With Pipe Smoking

I am a sociologist. While taking a methods class, I was assigned a research paper and chose to study the world of pipe smokers.  I found the topic to be fascinating!  I learned many interesting things about the social world of pipe smoking, such as the connection many smokers feel to their fathers and grandfathers who smoked pipes, among other things. As a true qualitative researcher, I participated in the activity to see what it would be like.

Buying my first pipe was daunting, especially since most pipe smokers are male and some actively discourage women from entering "their" world.  Smoking lounges are definitely male-only space, too.  I was happy to find a tobacconist who was friendly and willing to help me learn.  Over a period of months I gained skills in packing a pipe correctly, caring for the pipe, and finding tobaccos that suited me best.   I enjoyed the experience, but smoking was a lonely activity for me overall.

Never having smoked even a cigarette before, I had to learn how to smoke from friends, and how to smoke pipes by joining online forums and reading the one magazine I found that talked about pipe smoking.  I learned to never inhale (I couldn't do so without choking anyway), and to drink tea to bring out the flavors of the tobacco.  I slowly progressed in my skills to the point where I once bid on an estate (used & restored) pipe from Ebay and was thrilled to win!

After a few months I had secured a wooden Oscuro cigar box which I filled my accumulated supplies: a corn cob pipe and three briars, cleaning tools, wooden matches, and lots of tobaccos. I never felt buzzed from tobacco until I got a free sample of a couple of English blends from a fellow smoker I traded tobaccos with online, so I avoided those, sticking to aromatics.  I most loved packing my pipe with the soft, black Captain Spice; it burned slowly and had the most wonderful aroma and mild flavor.

Pipe smoking was fun, but knowing that smoking is unhealthy, I rarely engaged in it. Still, I absolutely enjoyed the activities of choosing a new tobacco, packing the pipe skillfully, and seeing how often I could succeed in keeping a pipe lit until the tobacco was all ashes. There was always a point during an evening smoke where the quality of the experience would change: the smoke would become thick and rich and the pipe would perform wonderfully - no gurgling or plugging up. An evening with a perfectly packed pipe filled with an aromatic tobacco that I never had to relight was a delight I would strive for.  I would sit on my balcony with a bent pipe between my teeth, listening to crickets while I graded papers. I'd imagine how professorial I looked- and would laugh at myself for the image. 

My pipe smoking days have dwindled to pretty much nothing, mainly due to my concerns for health. There are a few other negatives that prevented me from becoming a wholesale smoker, though. For example,  I never became addicted to nicotine (thank goodness). Also, I only smoked every couple of months or so, and never during the winter because I don't enjoy being outside shivering! I don't like the smell of old smoke, ashes or smoker's breath, and I would not be comfortable with a partner who was a nicotine addict.  I guess  habitual smoking never stood a chance with me.

I won't say I'll never smoke a pipe again, though. If a friend wanted to try it with me, I might do it.  But if I never smoked again, that would be fine as well.  I now get my pipe fix through podcasts or websites, because it was the world of the pipe smoker that was most compelling to me.  Today when I see someone smoking a pipe - and it's a rare sight-  I understand what it is they are enjoying and why they might find it hard to stop.  I usually say nothing, but I walk past them slowly enough to take in the wonderful aroma of pipe smoke.

And maybe I'll find a reason to walk past him again!

drpr drpr 46-50, F 1 Response Aug 10, 2008

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You have summarized the pipe experience well. Even after 40 years of smoking pipes, I still enjoy the perfect pack and smoking down the bowl with only two lights. I smoke Virginia ba<x>sed blends most of the time, so I need to stay relaxed to keep from getting a hot pipe. That is also good discipline. I look forward to my evening pipe in the study. Unlike you, I love the smell of the study (books, leather and pipe smell) when ever I enter.