By Kevin Godbee
Who smokes a pipe anymore these days? (I mean a wooden pipe with tobacco in it, not a glass or metal pipe with crack or weed.) If you walked up to a stranger on the street and asked them to imagine, and describe a person smoking a pipe, the vast majority of people would probably describe an old man sitting on a bench, or a grandfather-type figure.
Well, this is one of those times where the general public’s perception is not entirely accurate as to the reality of the moment.
Going back to the earlier part of the millennium, pipe smoking was still in a decline since the 1970s. According to Norman Sharp, head of the Pipe Tobacco Council, in a 2005 article in the Washington Post - "The decline has been persistent and unrelenting," In 1970, Americans bought 52 million pounds of pipe tobacco. In 2004, they bought less than 5 million pounds. "That’s a decline of 91 percent," he says. However, fast-forward just a few years to 2009, to an article in The Wall Street Journal, and we find note of a turnaround in pipe smoking. What’s even more interesting is the observation that college-age, young adults are once again partaking of the briar pipe, which hasn’t been a trend since the 1950s.
Pipe smoking’s first spurt in popularity came in the early 1920s. Subsequent peaks in pipe smoking took place in the 1950s and in the 1970s. The previously referenced Washington Post article also provides a view of what the actual size of the small niche-market of pipe smokers was back in 2003 - "In a 2003 survey, the Department of Health and Human Services calculated that there are 1.6 million pipe smokers in America."
While it’s difficult to come by clear accurate numbers of pipe tobacco sales today because of known reporting inaccuracies by different segments of the tobacco industry, there certainly appears to be continued and growing evidence of the increased popularity in pipe smoking amongst college students and adults in their 20s. It can be found right here in the virtual pages of PipesMagazine.com.
Here are a few photos from The Gateway Area Pipe Show and Swap in St. Charles, MO, on February 19, 2011.
As stated in the full article here, "There were several 20-somethings in the crowd of buyers, and some, while old enough to smoke in Missouri (18 is the minimum smoking age there), would be too young to legally consume alcohol. It’s pleasing to see this trend of the younger generation’s interest in pipe smoking continuing so the hobby may live on after the old torchbearers have departed."
More evidence that there is new interest in pipe smoking can be found in the member profiles on PipesMagazine.com as well. An optional field on a person’s profile is to list the date they first smoked a pipe. Look at some of the dates in the screen captures below.
The four profiles above show three people that just started enjoying a pipe this year, along with another person that started in 2009. He is still smoking his pipe as evidenced by his just recent sign-up to this site within the last month. Following are two more profile screen shots, one showing that the more mature generation of pipe smokers is also represented here with a man that smoked his first pipe in 1957, and one more expressing how new he is to the world of pipes.
As the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of PipesMagazine.com, I travel to many pipe shows and various retail tobacconists all over the country. My travels have continued to provide evidence that the past-time of pipe smoking is continuing to grow, and that many, if not most of the new entrants are in their 20s and 30s. This comes from personal observation of the attendants of pipe shows, from talking to retailers about their customers, and from several posts in the Pipe Forums.
Speaking of our Pipe Smokers Forums, I will leave you with some photos of our younger members, and you will see that the notion that pipe smoking is only for "old men" needs updating. While were at it, let’s break another stereotype … while they are a quite small minority of pipe smokers, women, and younger woman at that, are enjoying pipe smoking today as well.
These are all members of PipesMagazine.com. (A few are pictured twice.)
In a related article, you can hear directly from a 20-something pipe smoker: Collegiate Smokers and a New Era of Pipe Men
Kevin Godbee is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of PipesMagazine.com. Kevin started smoking pipes and cigars in 1998 and started an online cigar magazine & community site in 2005. (The site was acquired in 2008 and no longer exists.) He launched PipesMagazine.com in 2009, and in less than three years the site has become the largest trafficked pipe smoking related site, and the #1 Source for Pipes and Pipe Tobacco Information. In October of 2011, he launched Cigar Chronicles.
In the beginning of his career, Kevin worked in the hobby and specialty toy business for 16 years in sales, marketing, advertising and product development for three different manufacturers, and with his own company.
Over the last 10 years working in the online business, he has become an expert in Internet Marketing and SEO. Kevin is a Certified Master Tobacconist (CMT) through Tobacconist University, a member of Cigar Rights of America, is on the Executive Committee of The United Pipe Clubs of America, and is a "Media Member" of the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association. In his spare time he plays guitar, cooks, and enjoys all the wonderful places to go and things to do in beautiful downtown St. Petersburg, Florida where he lives in his penthouse bachelor pad.