Dr. Michael Garr, Ph. D. aka "Doc Garr"
A frequently asked question among pipe smokers is whether pipe smoking among college-aged people is on the increase. Much of the information to answer the question is anecdotal. Nor has anyone to my knowledge looked at the ages of pipe smokers over a number of years.
Using the National Survey of Drug Use and Heath (NSDUH), formerly the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, the total number of pipe smokers and their ages can be fairly accurately estimated. The NSDUH is conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Before 1999 the survey only looked at cigarette use. Starting in 1999, the survey was expanded to include a wide variety of tobacco use, including pipe use. The most recent year I had access to was 2010 and so the results presented below range from 1999 to 2010.
The sample, which ranges from approximately 53,000 to 58,000 respondents, is quite a large sampling. Sampling is done to ensure that the sample is representative of the entire nation.
I will show two charts. One shows the percentage of pipe smokers within each age category relative to the total sample of each age category. The second chart isolates just pipe smokers and shows the distribution of pipe smokers across the five age categories (12 - 17, 18 - 25, 26 - 34, 35 - 49 and 50 or older). The categories that are used are developed by NSDUH and are not my categories. Finally pipe smoking is confined to those who smoked tobacco in a pipe in the past month. Data can be obtained for last year or ever smoked a pipe, but using past month tends to focus on current smokers.
Chart 1 looks at the people who smoked a pipe in the past month as a percentage of the total sample for each of the age categories. Since 2003 there has been a fairly steady increase of people ages 18 – 25 who have smoked a pipe in the past month. In fact, pipe smoking in this age group increased to 1.8% from 1.3% during the 1999 to 2012 period. That is almost a 40% (38.5%) increase. During the same period, those between 12 to17 years of age basically remained unchanged. Every other age group saw declines in the percentage of pipe smokers (a 11.1% drop for those 26 to 34, a 40% drop for those 35 to 50, and a 41.7% drop for those 50 and older). It is surprising to see the dramatic drop for 50 or older group. Clearly, these findings suggest a fairly significant absolute increase among college-aged pipe smokers, ages 18 to 25.
Chart 2 examines the age distribution just among pipe smokers. Like Chart 1, this chart shows the increase of pipe smokers among the 18 to 25 age group relative to all other age groups, All other age groups show declines relative to the 18 to 25 age group. This again finds support for the increase of pipe smoking among those who are college-aged. . It is interesting to note, however, that regardless of year, more pipe smokers were college-aged than any other age group.
Overall, there has been a slight increase in pipe smokers over the period 1999 to 2010. In 1999, one percent of the population was pipe smokers. The percentage of pipe smokers decreased to 0.8% from 2002 – 2003. It increased slightly to 0.9% from 2003 to 2008. But then the percentage of pipe smokers jumped to 1.1% in 2009 and 2010. It is safe to say that this increase in the overall percentage of pipe smokers is due to the increase of pipe smoking among college-aged people.
Follow-Up Article: 2011 Youth Tobacco Survey
Another article by Doc Garr is: "The Ritual of Smoking a Pipe"
"Doc" is currently president of The United Pipe Clubs of America and Pocono Intermountain Pipe Enthusiasts. In 2011 Doc won the national slow-smoke championship in Chicago and competed in the World Cup in Eindhoven, Netherlands, where he came in 69th out of 338 smokers. He has been a pipe smoker for almost 25 years. When he is not smoking a pipe, Doc is Professor of Sociology at Wilkes University. He also moonlights at El Humidor, Wilkes-Barre, PA, a tobacco store.