Pipe smoking

Sandro Pertini smoking a pipe.

Pipe smoking is the practice of tasting (or, more uncommonly, inhaling) the smoke produced by burning a substance, most commonly tobacco, in a pipe. It is the oldest traditional form of smoking.


Protohistoric Catlinite pipe bowl, probably Ioway, from the Wanampito site.

A number of Native American cultures have pipe-smoking traditions, which have been part of their cultures since long before the arrival of Europeans. Tobacco is often smoked, generally for ceremonial purposes, though other mixtures of sacred herbs are also common. Various types of ceremonial pipes have been smoked in ceremony to seal covenants and treaties, most notably treaties of peace (hence the misnomer, "peace pipe"). Tobacco was introduced to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century and spread around the world rapidly.[1] In Asia during the 19th century, opium (which previously had only been eaten) was added to tobacco and smoked in pipes. Madak (the mixture of opium and tobacco) turned out to be far more addictive than orally-ingested opium, leading to social problems in China which culminated in the First (18391842) and Second Opium War (18561860).[1]

According to Alfred Dunhill, Africans have had a long tradition of smoking hemp in gourd pipes, asserting that by 1884 the King of the Baluka tribe of the Congo had established a "riamba" or hemp-smoking cult in place of fetish-worship. Enormous gourd pipes were used.[2]

In the 20th century, pipe smoking has been adopted as a preferred method of inhaling a variety of psychoactive drugs, and some claim it is a more intense method of ingestion. Smokeable crack cocaine has a reputation for being more addictive than cocaine's insufflated form. Similarly, methamphetamine has gained popularity in a crystalline form which when smoked in a pipe lets the user avoid the painful nasal irritation of snorting. When not applied to a cigarette or joint, the liquid form of PCP is typically smoked in a pipe with tobacco or cannabis.[3]


A selection of various pipes on a circular pipe rack

Pipes have been fashioned from an assortment of materials including briar, clay, ceramic, corncob, glass, meerschaum, metal, gourd, stone, wood and various combinations thereof, most notably, the classic English calabash pipe.

The size of a pipe, particularly the bowl, depends largely on what is intended to be smoked in it. Large western-style tobacco pipes are used for strong-tasting, harsh tobaccos, the smoke from which is usually not inhaled. Smaller pipes such as the midwakh or kiseru are used to inhale milder tobaccos such as dokha and kizami or other substances such as cannabis and opium.

Water pipes

Water pipes bubble smoke through water to cool and wash the smoke. The two basic types are stationary hookahs, with one or more long flexible drawtubes, and portable bongs.


Pipe sculpture in Przemyśl, Poland

The customs, vocabulary and etiquette that surround pipe smoking culture vary across the world and depend both on the people who are smoking and the substance being smoked.

For example, in many places in Europe and North America, tobacco pipe smoking has sometimes been seen as genteel or dignified and has given rise to a variety of customized accessories and even apparel such as the smoking jacket, and the Pipe Smoker of the Year award in the UK, as well as the term kapnismology ("the study of smoke").[4]

The ceremonial smoking of tobacco or other herbs, as a form of prayer, is still practiced in a number of Native American religious traditions.

Cannabis culture has its own pipe smoking traditions which differ from tobacco pipe smoking. For example, unlike tobacco smokers, cannabis users frequently pass a single pipe among two or more partners.

In recent years, "hookah bars" have appeared in college towns and urban areas in America[5] and Europe.

Notable pipe smokers

A number of real and fictional persons are strongly associated with the hobby of pipe smoking.



Fictional characters

More examples can be found in the Pipe Smoker of the Year list.

Health effects

The overall health risks are 10% higher in pipe smokers than in nonsmokers.[17] However, pipe or cigar smokers who are former-cigarette smokers might retain a habit of smoke inhalation.[17] In such cases, there is a 30% increase in the risk of heart disease and a nearly three times greater risk of developing COPD.[17] In addition, there is a causal relationship between pipe smoking and mortality due to lung and other cancers, as well as periodontal problems, such as tooth and bone loss.[17]

However, all tobacco products deliver nicotine to the central nervous system, and there is a confirmed risk of dependence. Many forms of tobacco use are associated with a significantly increased risk of morbidity and premature mortality due to tobacco-related diseases[17] but a WHO committee on tobacco has also acknowledged the evidence is inconclusive regarding health consequences for snuff consumers.[18]

See also

Substance-specific pipes


  1. 1 2 The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05.
  2. [Dunhill, Alfred | "The Pipe Book" | London | A & C Black, 1924]
  3. National Trends in Drug Abuse
  4. Origin of kapnismology
  5. Hookah's New Haven
  6. Madden, Bill. "Sparky Anderson, a great manager with great stories, saw welcome wear thin with Reds and Tigers," Daily News (New York City), Friday, November 5, 2010.
  7. [Edwards, Martin, It All Comes Back, Pipes & Tobacco magazine, Spring 2002, pp. 14-17]
  8. Tobacco Pipe Prince Shape TobaccoPipes.com.
  9. [Graves, K. Maxwell Jr., Pipe Smoking Friends--Famous and Infamous, Pipes & Tobacco magazine, Summer 2002, pp. 28-30]
  10. "The Briar Files: A blog about pipes and pipe smoking.". 14 November 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  11. "Pipes, People and Dealing with Stress". PipesMagazine.com. 1 July 2009. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  12. 1 2 "Famous Pipe Smokers". Alt Smokers Pipe. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
  13. A Sherlock Holmes related bibliography, includes quite a few articles devoted to smoking habits of Mr. Holmes
  14. https://www.lambiek.net/artists/k/kuhn.htm
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 Viegas CA. Noncigarette forms of tobacco use. J Bras Pneumol. 2008;34(12):1069–73. doi:10.1590/S1806-37132008001200013. PMID 19180343.
  16. http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/health/2009/0421/1224245059341.html[]
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