Today, I'd like to discuss some of the reasons that many who try their hand at pipe smoking often decide to quit. This is a topic that hits rather close to home to me, as I came very close to quitting before I really figured out how to smoke a pipe and how to achieve the level of enjoyment I've attained with pipe smoking.
As I've mentioned before in various blogs, my great-grandfather was the one and only pipe smoker in my life as I was growing up, and while many friends and family just saw him as an oddball, or saw pipe smoking as "his thing," I was always drawn to it. Around the age of 20 or so, I decided to give smoking a shot, and I started with cigars. Eventually, I bought a cheap pipe from the drug store and tried smoking a pipe with my great-grandfather. Unfortunately, he wasn't the best instructor...he'd smoked a pipe for about 70 years at that point, but his only instruction was, "just jamb some tobacco in the bowl and light it up!" Well, that didn't really help me, so I wound up frustrated and tongue-torched more often than not. This went on for nearly 20 years...I'm not exaggerating. During that time, I primarily smoked cigars, but would occasionally drag out my pipe and give it another go. I always wanted to smoke a pipe, but just never got the hang of it.
Just before I turned 40, I decided I was going to learn to smoke a pipe the "right" way, or I was never going to try again. I turned to YouTube for assistance, thinking that perhaps I would find some pipe smokers who had made videos about how to smoke a pipe. Lo and behold, there were a handful of folks, and with the help of a few YouTubers such as Jayson Dagner (The Smoking Dagners), and Kel (SmokeRingsPipeDreams), I got the hang of it, and have enjoyed pipe smoking immensely ever since. But had I not found those instructional videos, I wouldn't be here today, running a small online pipe shop, and writing about this. So let's delve into some of the reasons people give up on pipe smoking too soon.
Cigars are Easier
I found this to be true in my own experience. While there are techniques to smoking a cigar that prove helpful and assist in the overall enjoyment of cigar smoking, it's so much easier to get the hang of it much more quickly. With cigars, you clip the end, light it up, and you're off to the races. Cigars burn more evenly and stay lit better, because they are designed to do so. Provided they're made well, they will smoke evenly to the end with few (if any) relights. Cigar smokers who try pipe smoking will find that there is much more involved in pipe smoking: proper loading of the bowl, treatment of various types of tobaccos, the false light and true light, tamping technique, and relights. Because pipe smoke doesn't linger on your person as long as cigar smoke, I find that my wife prefers that I smoke a pipe. That's just one of the many reasons I prefer pipe smoking myself, but many cigar smokers who have an interest in pipes simply discover that they'd rather be able to just light up and go.
Cigarettes are Much Easier
While the vast majority of us would agree that cigarette smoking is the worst form of smoking when it comes to health risks, those who are cigarette smokers definitely have the hardest time adjusting to pipe smoking. This is largely due to the fact that cigarettes are the easiest form of smoking, and pipes are the most difficult. They are at opposite ends of the difficulty spectrum. You can grab a cigarette, light it up, and be done smoking by the time a pipe smoker can properly load his or her bowl! And when you light a cigarette, it won't go out. Once lit, a cigarette will burn itself down more often than not without you even having to take a single puff after getting it lit. This falls in line with the "instant gratification" mentality that pervades our society today. Without even getting into the health risks of sucking cigarette smoke into your lungs (most pipe smokers taste rather than inhale), or the extra chemicals that come from burning bleached white paper in addition to the low quality tobacco, I think we can all agree that cigarettes are the "fast food" of the smoking spectrum, whereas premium cigars and pipes are the "Filet Mignons" of smoking. I find that there is simply no comparison between the two, and while eating steak for every meal may not be the healthiest for you, I know that eating fast food for every meal is about the worst diet you can have. Nevertheless, if we step away from the food analogy, we can see that cigarette smoking is simply the quickest and easiest form of smoking, and those who have smoked cigarettes find that the pipe smoking ritual is much more time consuming and difficult, at least until you get the hang of it. Because of this, cigarette smokers are much more likely to give up on pipe smoking.
No Local Pipe Shops
This one also hits home with me. Two years ago, the last local brick and mortar shop that carried pipes and pipe tobaccos in my hometown closed. Because of this, there are no places left to go to be "in the scene" so to speak. There are no shop owners to provide much-needed information, or to host pipe club meetings, etc. Now, my hometown has a greater-area population (including suburbs and smaller satellite communities) of about 500,000 people. If such a population couldn't support even one pipe shop, I couldn't help but think that there are small to mid-sized towns all over the country who were in the same boat. This is what gave me the initial idea to start The Pipe Nook, with which I strive to attain the atmosphere of a "virtual brick & mortar" shop...one that provides information to those interested in pipe smoking. I try to be as helpful as I can to those who contact me with questions, in much the same way that a good local shop owner would.
No Guidance from Other Pipe Smokers
In much the same way that a lack of local pipe shops limits interpersonal learning, the very fact that so few pipe smokers exist these days limits an individual's chances of picking up tips from a friend or neighbor who smokes a pipe. It's very rare indeed these days to see a pipe smoker out for a stroll. This lack of pipe smoking visibility, in conjunction with a lack of local shops, is what causes many new pipe smokers to obtain their purchases, and find their sense of community, online. Which brings us to the final reason that many interested parties give up.
Too Many Choices
Searching online for pipes and pipe tobaccos provides a staggering amount of choices! There are literally hundreds of pipes and pipe tobaccos to choose from. Which pipe brand should I start with? What size and shape? Should I buy a filtered pipe, or non-filtered? What is a Flake, Coin, Ribbon, cake, or plug? What's the difference between Cavendish, Burley, Virginia, Latakia, and Turkish? What the heck is Perique? It can be overwhelming, and many just decide it's not worth the effort. That's why when I started The Pipe Nook, I decided that every brand I carry would be a personal recommendation from me. I sell Savinelli pipes because I smoke Savinelli pipes. I sell Cornell & Diehl tobaccos because I smoke Cornell & Diehl tobaccos. Now, I smoke other pipes and tobaccos that I don't carry here at The Pipe Nook. But if I decide to carry it on the site, it's a brand that I feel is an essential part of the pipe smoking world today; I only carry items that I feel the beginner pipe smoker could most easily get into. I never carry anything simply from a sales perspective, and I've gotten many positive comments from customers who are thankful for The Pipe Nook both as a source of information, and as a limiter of choice in the marketplace that only carries optimal choices for those new to pipe smoking.
I hope you've found this article thought-provoking, and I hope you'll stick with it and be patient with yourself if you're struggling with pipe smoking. If you're interested in further information about the pipe smoking hobby, I would recommend the following blogs here on the site:
"What Pipe Tobaccos Should I Smoke"
"Pipe Smoking 101: How to Smoke a Pipe"
"How to Smoke a Pipe Video Series from The Pipe Nook"
Please feel free to share this blog, as well as these other three, with anyone you know who would like to learn more about the incredibly satisfying world of pipe smoking!
Keep 'em Lit,
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