This Isn’t Your Grandfather’s Pipe

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

UPDATE: JANUARY 6, 2012: We have now found empirical evidence that pipe smoking is truly on the increase, and that young adults are more apt to be a pipe smoker than more mature grown-ups.

We previously stated above that Washington Post article says; "In a 2003 survey, the Department of Health and Human Services calculated that there are 1.6 million pipe smokers in America.

The most recent CDC report says;  "In 2010, … 2.2 million (0.8 percent) smoked tobacco in pipes."


There is an interesting statistic related to age. They give percentages of overall tobacco use. For example, in the above quote, 2.2 million pipe smokers represent less than 1% (0.8%) of all tobacco user including cigarettes, cigars and smokeless. However, when the numbers are isolated to 18 – 25 year olds, then pipe smokers represent 1.8%. So, the 18 – 25 year old crowd is more than twice as likely as the overall population to smoke a pipe.


Here are a few photos from The Gateway Area Pipe Show and Swap in St. Charles, MO, on February 19, 2011.

Joanna Nelson, Zach Meyer, & Brett Hitchell
Nathan Mattia
Young Gentleman Smoking a Pipe
Another Young Man Smoking a Pipe
Tom Hendricks' 17th year at the show

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 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, 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 (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 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 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.


22 Responses

  • Hopeful in that the newer members in the Brotherhood of the Briar, especially the younger crowd, are allowed to continue to take their pleasures as they see fit.
    Fun article Kevin!

  • Way cool, I hope more and more pipe smokers can learn and enjoy pipes and tobaccos due to Pipes Magazine.

  • well I started as a student, right now I’m not so old,
    but most important: I will be always young inside 😉

  • It’s nice to see new blood. I would be curios to hear how much pipe tobacco sales have gone up over the last couple of years – say in pounds?

  • It’s very pleasing to see so many new younger pipe smokers, and it gives me hope that this fine hobby will survive.

  • It’s good to see new life in the old practice, and seeing people willing to step out of the box to experience tobacco as it should be enjoyed.

  • @clanobucklin
    Unfortunately the reported numbers of pounds of pipe tobacco sold are unreliable and hugely over-inflated the last few years because of the RYO tax situation.

  • Great points in this article. When people try pipe smoking (and are giving a helping hand) they like it. People (especially younger people) are always looking to try new things, and when they get over stigmas of pipe smoking (and get past the anti-tobacco rhetoric) they’ll find are true pastime. The industry relies on word of mouth right now, but there’s a market out there that real advertising and promotion of smoking could reach if someone spent the effort/money.

  • The National Survey of Drug Abuse has reliable figures on the age distribution of pipe smoking, which I reported on one of the fora. I don’t remember the percents, but under 35 had the highest percentage, followed by those over 50.
    Pipe smoking is an important tradition (even Santa smokes a pipe!) and it’s good to see the younger generation carrying it forth.

  • Hah and there I am. Happy to be a part of the culture and take part in such a proud tradition. Great article sir.

  • Nice article. Hard to believe that it has been just over a year since I have begun this new “hobby” and I don’t think I will ever give it up.

  • Had anyone had the sense to introduce me to briar when I was young, I wouldn’t have torn my lungs up for 15 years smoking cigarettes. Though I’m closer to 40-something than 20-something, being in the company of younger people who enjoy the pipe makes me feel positive about where the world is heading. Pipe smokers are part of a unique subculture, but one that is free and open to any willing to take the time and learn to participate.

  • I would not do without all my pipes and all the different tobacco varieties, we can buy here in Denmark. I am in Esbjerg Pipe Guild, and we meet once a month to once a good smoke and tobacco tasting. It’s wonderful to have such a good and satisfying hobby.

  • Great to see some of the young folks and young ladies (my wife has just taken up the hobby too!) getting into the joy of pipes! Don’t be shy about puffing that pipe outside where folks can see you. Let’s start a trend!

  • It was good to read this and I have a few thoughts on the subject.
    I am not gonna go in to the female pipe smokers because I dont know anything of that trend.
    But this is what I see and my oppinion of why. I am a former bouncer of 16 yrs Ive worked in all “Gentelmans clubs” all across the U.S from high scale places to biker dives. At one time in the upper class places all one would see is business men and pretty boys with their shaved chest and legs in clothes I wouldnt be cought in living on a trust fund or spoiled mamas boys with crotch rocketts and the biker dives were just that men in their mid 30 and up rowdy as hell on some sort of American made scooter. Over the years I have noticed a trend of younger men or should I say boys on American bikes in the rowdy bars. Now whats this have to do with pipe smoking you may be asking right now. Well here it is. It appears to me all these trends going on with the younger men are all leaning to old times where men were just that men. Maybe a little Machismo tossed in. The youth of today are longing for a time where it was ok to be a man it was ok to open a door for a woman it was ok to stand up for what you believed in. And yes ive seen these mamas boys hide behind a woman to keep from getting hit now I see the younder ones standing up for a woman as it should be. This just my oppinion

  • started collecting before i started smoking(strange i know)love that more of us may be coming out of the woodwork. i just worry that by the time im older, they wold have made tobacco illegal!

  • I am 60 now and had quit smoking for 25 years. After I retrieved a Meerschaum from my folk’s house I decided to collect. After collecting enough from eBay to begin to annoy my wife I decided that I would have to start smoking again in order to justify my hobby. I am facinated by the patterns in the briar and it’s fun to keep looking for styles I don’t have yet. A few months ago I came to win the bid on an Oom Paul (C.B. Perkins) that had a sand blasted finish. When I got it I could see that the surface on either side of the bowl was worn smooth and shiny. All I could imagine was that the previous owner had held that pipe for hours and hours, day in and day out to wear off that sand blasted finish. I felt awed and sort of humble knowing that I was holding someone’s favorite pipe (or only pipe). This is one of the things I get from collecting pipes that you just don’t realize with other hobbies. Pipe ownership can be such a personal thing. Anyway, I’m happily trying to do my part ot increase the sales volume of pipe tobacco in the U.S. – Happy puffing!

  • Drucquers Banner