Ask Hank 10: The Tobacco-Pocalypse

A. Miller
It’s sunny and my grass has gotten too long.
I could be mowing but instead I’m writing a column about pipes and pipe tobacco because I can. My experience around the house is that if I ignore things long enough, they usually get taken care of somehow (cleaning fairies?).

So I have a bowl of a burley flake in my pipe and I’m sitting on my porch not cutting the grass. Which makes me curious, what have you been not–doing lately? Have you been avoiding responsibility at the same professional level as I have?

This month there was a deluge of questions but I got a bit carried away and therefore needed to stick to just three. Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Dear Hank,

I tend to pair a shot or three of scotch or gin with my pipe. And sometimes cereal. Have you other suggestions for morning pairings with a pipe?

William of Fruit Loops

Dear William of Fruit Loops,

I mean, I get what you’re saying. I even get *why* you’re saying it. Really, it’s a brilliant question.

Suddenly I feel woefully inadequately equipped from all my years in (read: “minutes I walked around inside of a”) Sommelier School.

Since you’ve covered the three main food groups, it seems there is little to add. I know I can confidently suggest bacon. Bacon can really be paired with anything and in just about any circumstance without negative results.

That said, I feel like that’s a bit of a cop–out. You probably don’t write an expert in the field like me without expecting something requiring more expertise than the word—and a glorious word it may be—”bacon”. But alas I have nothing.


Tobacco, the cause of, and solution to: all of my drinking problems,


Oh great advisor of pipe smokers. Oh wise pontificator of our glorious hobby. I write today to ask if the tobacco–pocalypse I’ve been reading about is truly happening, if so, what should I do in response? What does it all mean?

Semi–panicked in Idaho

Dear Semi–panicked in Idaho,

It’s rare someone talks to me this way without significant time spent paying me for my life–coaching services so…. well done. To answer your second question first, what does it all mean?

Basically, as I understand it (remember, while I play a lawyer on TV, I have no idea what a plaintiff is), the government has decided to dramatically limit the pipe tobaccos we can buy, and even the pipe makers who can sell us pipes. If it sounds ridiculous, take comfort in the fact that marijuana and it’s paraphernalia is increasingly being legalized. In the future your artisan pipe makers simply need to slap a label on their briar which states, “All products are intended for marijuana or legal use only,” and then they’ll be good to go.

I think reverse calabash pipes may need to henceforth be labelled as a “Marijuana Bong” and I think that too should help us skirt the issue for now. That is, until the government realizes what we’re *really* smoking in our pot pipes

If you think it’s absolutely absurd that tobacco (a wonderful, glorious, life–giving leaf) being so tightly controlled while marijuana is increasingly legalized is ridiculous, well, you’re correct.

So, that’s what it all means. Now on to what you should do about it. You should become a

The new regulations will take a little bit of time to affect the kinds of tobaccos you can buy online. That means for now it’s time to purchase a number of large shipping containers and some land hidden somewhere in the mountains or (if you cant afford mountain land), consider eastern Wyoming. Fill these containers with the basics, enough to get you through 3–6 years without access to purchasing anything you love in the tobacco world.

My suggestions include the following at a bare minimum:
– 492 tins of Chenet’s Cake (the demand for Perique will spike after the fallout settles, unfortunately your love of the stuff won’t fade, be well prepared).
– 200 Missouri Meerschaum Pipes. You probably actually need 197, but I like round numbers when it comes to pipes.
– 1 tin of Full Virginia Flake (the whole world will probably be rebuilt before this tin dries out enough to be smokable).
– 25 bags of Penzance (you will probably only need to smoke 1 of these, the remaining 24 will be used as currency, probably trade–able for a home or a small island each).
– 3 guns and 1 shipping container full of ammo.

Now about this last point. I’ve spent enough time reading books about Zombie apocalypses (okay, let’s be honest, I was watching the movie adaptations) to know that folks become crazy and willing to kill each other over basic food stuffs after the world caves in. If you’ll recall, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (he built a pyramid), at the bottom of the pyramid, and essential to human survival are our Physiological needs. In order of importance these include: Air, Tobacco, Water, Pipes, and Food.

Assuming “air” survives the tobacco–pocalypse, folks will be coming for your stash and willing to kill you even quicker than if you were standing in the way of the last source of water in the universe.

It’s going to get nasty out there.

Protect yourself. Protect your tobacco. Our hobby is one of intense community, care, and a sense of mutual responsibility. Therefore it saddens me to be the one to break this to you, but your “pipe club friends” or “forum buddies” will not be looking out for your best interest when they discover you have the last 60 tins of Firestorm on the planet. When these new regulations hit, it will be every man for himself. Worse than eBay (I know it’s hard to imagine).

For reference, my shipping–container–based stash is somewhere far far from the roof of’s office in Bethlehem PA, so don’t come looking for me there.

An alternative to all this madness is to simply move somewhere more sane, like Europe, but…. let’s just be honest with ourselves, as warm blooded American’s we’d probably rather die in a firefight over tobacco than submit to universal healthcare. Also, I think Europe tends to be much more accepting of tobacco in general than the United States. Wait. Maybe there is a solution to all this chaos.

The prepper of preppers, from a cargo–boat filled with shipping containers recently removed from Pennsylvania somewhere in the Atlantic,

Dear Hank,

I recently received a metal lathe from my grandfather as an inheritance and I’d love to be the next great pipe maker. The problem is, every time I set out to turn a piece of wood it snaps and I lose everything I worked on. Do you have any suggestions?

Better lathe than never,

Dear Steve,

You know the old saying, “Give a man a pipe and he’ll be a smoker for a lifetime. Teach a man to make a pipe and he’ll enable the masses to be smokers.” I’d like to be the first to congratulate you on the role you’ll play in worsening the above–mentioned end of world scenarios we soon expect to take place.

As for the issues you’re having, there are differences in wood and metal lathes, and as I understand it, many prefer a metal lathe for pipe making as Briar is such a hard wood. It sounds like the problems you have are user error. Have you considered keeping the lathe around as a fancy tool but instead using your teeth to carve the pipes?

I don’t know what I’m saying, but I do recall a well known pipe maker advising someone on cutting their teeth before diving in whole–hog.

Just an idea,

Until next month.

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