Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Pipe Smoker's Plight

"I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs" -Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds of all time, was well known for smoking a tobacco pipe. Some other well-known pipe smokers include:

  • J. R. R. Tolkien
  • C.S. Lewis
  • Bing Crosby
  • William Faulkner
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Douglas McArthur
  • Gerald Ford
  • Edwin Hubble
  • Rudyard Kipling
  • Vincent Van Gogh

This is just the short list. Pipes have been popular among Kings and Presidents, among scientists and preachers, among authors, artists, and musicians. Pipe smoking has had a long history of elegance, propriety, and intelligence. This image is starting to fade in today's world.

When I smoke my pipe in a semi-public place, whether outside my house, in a park, or anywhere else, I usually get one of two comments: "Hey, that smells really good", or "This reminds me of my grandfather." Usually the person is somewhat older than I, but occasionally someone nearer my age or younger will say something along these lines. More common comments from people in the X or Y generations are: "What are you smoking in that", or "Do you have weed in there?" I think the state of our society has a lot to do with the latter comments.

Two assumptions are made in the above comments:
1.) Nobody young smokes a pipe.
2.) Pipes are obsolete.

I happen to disagree with both. I have found that there is quite a large group of men in their 20s and 30s that are smoking pipes. Some of us had a grandfather that smoked, but many of us haven't. I remember a man that lived in an assisted living facility that my dad ran who smoked a pipe. Every time we would visit him I enjoyed the smell of his tobacco.

Pipes smokers are in jeopardy of losing their rights because tobacco has become the "bane of American society" in some circles. If ever a correlation between "throwing out the baby with the bathwater" and the tobacco controversy existed it is now. People have been attacking cigarette smokers with such intensity that pipe and cigar smokers are suffering too.

Every group of people has outliers, and pipe and cigar smokers certainly have theirs. Most pipe and cigar smokers are polite about their smoking, and often the pipe smoker is the more courteous of the two. There are those who will blow smoke in people's faces or be rude in other ways, but those are the outliers I mentioned above. The majority of us are friendly, contemplative, and respectful, among other things.

Recent legislation in Calabasas, CA and other L.A. cities have made it harder to smoke a pipe or cigar in public. A tobacco tax was proposed a short while ago that would have affected us too, though the proponents of the tax only attacked cigarette smokers in their ads. I have yet to find someone who thinks my pipe smoke is offensive. If these activists have their way I will only be able to smoke in my home, if that.

Pipe tobaccos are not crammed with all the carcinogens that cigarettes contain. They typically have pleasant aromas, though there are of course some pretty harsh Cavendish blends out there. Pipe smoking has been shown to reduce stress, and even add years to one's life expectancy, most notably in a study involving twins. Some of the world's greatest minds have been pipe smokers, so why are we being considered collateral damage in the anti-cigarette campaigns?

The answer most likely is ignorance. Nobody cares to look at the bigger picture. If one type of tobacco is shown to be unhealthy, then all types must be. They ignore the fact that a great number of the carcinogens do not naturally appear in tobacco. What will our society come to once it decides to bask fully in this ignorance? Will there be room for the next Albert Einstein or C.S. Lewis? I hope so.

The plight of the pipe smoker may very well be the plight of modern day culture. If generations X and Y only know that marijuana is smoked out of a pipe, where is our future headed? If one cannot look at a pipe smoker with respect and nostalgia, what will the future bring? I believe that the great minds both mentioned above, and those many more not mentioned were great BECAUSE of their pipe smoking, and NOT despite it.

1 comment:

Kati said...

you're welcome to smoke your pipe so long as it's in the great outdoors and not in my kitchen!