There is something that has puzzled me for a long time.
Where have all the pipe smokers gone?
I know there are a few Puritans who would smugly claim that they have all been killed by their nasty foul addiction but that is plainly a pile of ordure. I remember a time when on Budget Day the price of cigarettes would be increased but not the price of pipe tobacco or cigars because they were considered "a healthy alternative". I remember a day when politicians such as Harold Wilson or Jack Lynch would never be seen without a pipe.
The other day I was enjoying a nice pipeful and a large coffee down in the village. I got chatting to my old pal who runs the village grocery store. As I puffed my pipe and he puffed his cigarette we naturally got onto the subject of smoking, and I mentioned my little puzzle. It struck me that if anyone knew how many pipe smokers there were in the vicinity, he would.
He thought for a while and did a bit of mental inventory.
I don't know what the population would be in his shop's catchment area. Including the village and all the outlying areas where people have to travel through the village to get home, I reckon there are about three thousand. Going by statistics around eight hundred of those would smoke. And the number of those who smoke a pipe? Including myself … four. Only four people in a very large area of the county? Only 0.5% of smokers? I found that quite amazing.
It has reached the stage where, if I meet a pipe smoker while out and about we are such a rarity that we get chatting. The same question always arises – where have all the pipe smokers gone?
One thing I have discovered over the years is that the pipe is admired by just about everyone, smoker and non-smoker alike. I have lost count of the people who admire the aroma, and the number of people who have said it evokes memories of their father or grandfather. It ranks up there with the smell of an Autumn bonfire or turf smoke. Many have said even the mere sight of a pipe-smoker is relaxing.
I used to smoke cigarettes [well over forty years ago] and I found them to be messy. There was always ash everywhere and butts to be disposed of. They were a quick fix and tasted of saltpeter. The pipe on the other hand keeps its ash neatly in the bowl and there are no fag-ends. Ash can be discreetly disposed of at the end of a smoke, and that's it. I grant that a pipe is a little more trouble in that it has to be cleaned regularly and it's an extra item to carry around – instead of fags and a lighter, I have to carry a pipe, tobacco and a lighter, but that is a miniscule drawback compared to the rich flavour and aroma.
Even the Puritans ignore us. Their questionnaires and statistics always quote the "number of cigarettes per day" and never ever mention quantities of tobacco. They wiffle on with their 4000 [or is it 6000? I’ve lost count] carcinogens in cigarettes but they never analyse pipe tobacco which I'm damn sure contains far less. Any real doctor [as distinct from those who just trot out the party line] I have ever spoken to has always told me that the pipe is far preferable to cigarettes so why is this never publicised?
Because of the Anti-Smoker movement [Big Pharma, to you and me] a lot of people considered their position on cigarettes. Many have switched to electrofag, some went cold turkey and the more brainless even tried Big Pharma's own useless patches and gum. But no one ever suggested they try a pipe. Why?
Has anyone got any answers?