The Pipe Pundit

The Codger Effect

Fred Brown
I’m not sure where this is going,
but I’ve never let that stop me in the past.

The other day, while looking up some statistics on pipe tobacco production (it’s down so far this year), I ran across a website which calls itself HealthDay, News for Healthier Living. Just another one of those zillion of expert sites telling you how to live your life in a more healthful way. Yeah, right. I got it.

There was posted a lengthy piece by a doctor who raged against the evils of pipe smoking–this after having been a pipe smoker himself.

Why, if you buy in to what the doc is pushing, smoking a pipe is the root cause of every heinous health problem since the bubonic plague.

After reading this, I got the uneasy feeling that I was about to lose some important body parts if I continue to smoke my beloved pipes.

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So I read a little closer. Yes, he said we were all nutjobs for smoking a pipe, which is laden with at least 4,000 compounds, with 40 said to cause cancer. Yes, I the report said that pipe tobacco is as dangerous as cigarette tobacco.

The author is Dr. Michael Thun, vice president of epidemiology and surveillance for the American Cancer Society. He is distinguished and has had a sterling career. In fact, you can read about his recent remarks about pipe smoking here.

He cites several studies in the article, most of them (with the exception of one from 2004) were compiled in 1990s.

I don’t have a beef with the doc, honest. He’s been paid, probably well, to run the American Cancer Society’s epidemiological studies over the last two dozen years.

It’s just the same old same old studies barking up the same wrong tree.

Look, everybody should know by now that if you keep a pipe in your mouth 24/7 your tongues is going to fall off, along with your ears.

Smoking like there is no tomorrow will actually give you no tomorrows.

Now, I believe what Chuck Stanion at Pipes and Tobacco Magazine says. He pushes sipping a pipe like fine wine. That is just a sublime idea. I believe Chuck is right because if you go about your pipe smoking like a bulldozer operator, you are going to wind up in a big hole. I believe that as well.

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I just wish these big study events would round up a bunch of pipe guys who have been smoking for 30, 40, 50 years and put them in one room. Then go out a find a bunch of newbs, say who have been smoking no more than two, three, four years.

Then you run all your studies: looking at all the parts that are still working on the codgers and compare what has happened to the newbs. Don’t tell them about black tongue (that’s what happens, according to the study, if you don’t brush your teeth!)

Oh, I know. The young guys will not show near as much wear and tear. But I want to see how the old guys are holding up to all those compounds that are said to be in pipe tobacco, and then compare that to how the compounds are affecting the youngsters.

I’m betting there won’t be that much difference. Why?

Young pipe smokers have a learning curve. Some learn, others hit the curve and wipe out.

It takes a while to understand the intricacies of pipe smoking: packing, lighting, puffing, re-lights, how to relax, all the things that go into pipe smoking that makes it an art form.

With old guys, relaxing is mastery. Not only that, if you find a pipe smoker with 50 years of experience and he’s still has all his parts with him, then you have uncovered what I am talking about:

"The Codger Effect." We know not only how to pack and puff, but also how to pace a smoke.

As in most of life, pacing is not only important, but in fact, pacing is the most important aspect of some parts of life. A couple of things come to mind, if you get the line between the lines.

Now, in the last two paragraphs of the HealthDay article, the writer mentioned two of pipe smoking’s favorite people: Albert Einstein and Rick Newcombe.

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"Still, the notion that pipes are more benign than cigarettes lives on. In the July 1994 issue of Reason magazine, an article tried to entice readers to take up the pipe. ‘Pipe smoking is a fun hobby,’ wrote the author, Rick Newcombe. ‘It is relaxing. It tastes good. It feels good. It helps us unwind. It helps us cope with stress. It enhances objectivity. It facilitates contemplation.’"

I could not have defined the "Codger Effect" any better than Mr. Newcombe.

The HelalthDay article continued: "Although Newcombe advocates moderation in pipe smoking to help avoid oral cancer, he asserts, ‘As a statement of political rebellion against political correctness, it’s hard to beat pipe smoking. Also keep in mind that Einstein did not worry about defying convention. To be a pipe smoker in the 1990s you really must be an individualist.’"

The article then quoted the doc: "Thun of the American Cancer Society doesn’t see it quite that way, Einstein notwithstanding. ‘Pipe smoking hasn’t made anyone smart,’ he says. And given all the risks of pipe smoke, he adds, ‘There’s a lot more evidence of the opposite.’"

I’m in Rick’s corner on this. However, I would like to add that if pipe smoking reflected a political rebellion against political correctness in the 1990s, and fostered individualism, then today it has to make you a blooming U.S. presidential candidate.

And the doc is slightly askew when he compares the common man’s brain to that of Mr. E=MC 2.

I mean he could have said Alfred E. Neuman and I’d buy in, but not the fellow who smoked Revelation in his pipe, and the one who told us about the general theory of relativity, the geometric theory of gravity. It was a solid theory in 1915 when Mr. E published his math equations and it is still used in physic classes today.

I dropped out of college physics just before flunking the entry level class, just to be transparent about this.

And, oh, yes, can you guess the most popular items on display in the physics section at the Smithsonian Museum today?

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Well, according to EA Carey’s Pipe and Tobacco Shop in England, it is Mr. E’s pipe.

That’s the same Mr. E and pipe that contributed to his sense of well-being, a calming and "objective judgment in all human affairs," something the doc could use.

Here’s what the Carey pipe shop has to say about Einstein’s pipe:

It’s not exactly the thing that made Albert Einstein renown in human history. But the modest smoking device just may have helped create his world-changing theories and formulas.

Since it first arrived at the Smithsonian more than 30 years ago, Einstein’s pipe isn’t just a notable personal item from one of history’s great thinkers, it is also the most popular single exhibit in the museum’s entire modern physics collection, officials there say.

It beats the Nier mass spectrograph, the first atom–beam block and even the Bose-Einstein Condensation Apparatus.

It’s in a class by itself," says Roger Sherman, the Smithsonian’s associate curator for the modern physics collection, says of the modest wooden pipe from before 1948.


Albert Einstein’s Pipe

It’s not exactly the thing that made Albert Einstein renown in human history. But the modest smoking device just may have helped create his world-changing theories and formulas.

Since it first arrived at the Smithsonian more than 30 years ago, Einstein’s pipe isn’t just a notable personal item from one of history’s great thinkers, it is also the most popular single exhibit in the museum’s entire modern physics collection, officials there say.

It beats the Nier mass spectrograph, the first atom–beam block and even the Bose-Einstein Condensation Apparatus.

"It’s in a class by itself," says Roger Sherman, the Smithsonian’s associate curator for the modern physics collection, says of the modest wooden pipe from before 1948.

 

 


Fred Brown
is a journalist who lives in Knoxville, TN. He will write this column for PipesMagazine.com monthly. He can be contacted at
tennwriter@bellsouth.net.

 

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    cobguy
  • May 21, 2015
Now, that was as seamless as anyone could combine those ideas! From cancer studies by nitwits to pacing, followed by a segue into math and science ending with a trip to the Smithsonian looking at Einstein's pipe. Well done sir!! :)
BTW ... is that a MD Meer? I have a similar one and am quite pleased.
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    gloucesterman
  • May 21, 2015
I have become what I once affectionately referred to as an “Old Timer”. And I must admit sometimes I find modern medicine a little confusing. There is a universal condemnation of tobacco but an equally pervasive willingness to dispense all manner of drugs some with side effects that make smoking’s consequences look like a walk in the park. I had a conversation with my doctor recently that reinforced this view and it went something like this.
My doctor; “you really need to quit smoking, it isn’t good for you.”
My reply; I know but there a lot of things out there that aren’t good for me and most aren’t nearly so pleasant. I enjoy smoking my pipe, I find it relaxing. At the end of the day I can sit on my porch, fire up a bowl of good tobacco and along with a tumbler of Honey Jack make whatever stresses the day has imposed disappear. A good night’s sleep is assured and at this point in my life that’s as important as anything.
My Doctor; you need to quit, I can give you something for the stress and to help you sleep. I couldn’t believe my ears, it was like something right out of Orwell’s 1984. Take two of these and everything will be alright!
Being a little “crusty” a privilege senior status affords you, I responded “Sounds to me like you want me to trade one dependency for another and that other is nowhere near as pleasant. Thanks, but I’ll pass.
There are some things that are worse than dying, like drooling on yourself in some rest home long past knowing who or where you are. No thanks. I’ll go for the gusto and make life worth living. If that takes 10 years off my life, well that’s the 10 years I would have spent drooling on myself so fate can have them. Just my thoughts.
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    kentccarpenter
  • May 22, 2015
Big Pharma truly is Big Evil Gloucesterman.
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    Cortez
  • May 22, 2015
Thanks for the time and effort you put into this article. I suppose it's necessary to air these views, but responding to the health and safety fanatics has become empty banter. The root issue is freedom. When veganism becomes the voting majority's view, meat eaters will realize they're at the bottom of the slope greased by today's intolerance.
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    tennsmoker
  • May 22, 2015
@cobguy: You bet it's an MD. Love it. Smoke it with just about anything and it just delivers. BTW, if you are a Civil War buff, and I am, Confederate President Jefferson Davis smoked this very same version of a meer.
@gloucesterman: Had the very same conversation with my doc not long ago. Doc: "You need to quit." Me: "Why?" Doc: "It's gong to kill you." Me: "Doc, at my age, I no longer buy green bananas." End of conversation.
@Cortez: You are right, Mr. Cortez. I am beating my head against a brick wall. But, for once, I just wish these so-called studies would take in the reality of pipe smoking and test real pipe smokers and not just craft the results out of large CDC blind tests.
But, I digress.
Thanks for all the comments. Love to read more
Selah
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    rnewcombe
  • May 23, 2015
Fred Brown outdid himself on this one. What a wonderful analysis! That HealthDay article is very old and hardly scholarly. Note in the "References" at the end the author only includes articles that support her position! I have been smoking a pipe for nearly four decades and agree 100 percent with the notion of slowing down, "relax with your pipe," as the Europeans say, and keep it barely smoldering as you take "kiss puffs" or treat your pipe like sipping a fine wine. If you are a nicotine addict, I recommend that you check out the e-book or audiobook by Dr. Brad Rodu called "For Smokers Only." My doctor is a pipe smoker himself, and that is a must for me. When I read Fred's essay and the terrific comments, I was reminded of hearing about when the comedian George Burns, who lived to 100 and was always with his cigar, say that his doctor told him to give them up, "So I waited until he died and got a new doctor." Burns said he did this a number of times.
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    lvpipe
  • May 24, 2015
Here is my problem with articles like the one discussed above: I first developed an interest in cigars and pipes while a college student in the early 1980's. Since then, my smoking career has included a few years of sporadic smoking, a few years of near-daily smoking, periods of complete abstention ranging anywhere from a few months to a few years, and lots of years of smoking two or three times per week. I suspect that my history is similar to that of many others. How does one gather valid epidemiological data under such circumstances? Don't you need large populations of people with essentially the same habits? That may be easy to accomplish with those who inhale a pack of cigarettes every day, but is much harder with pipe and cigar smokers where smoking practices and frequency are much more varied. I just follow the practices of moderation and common sense described above. I mean, I like a little bourbon here and there, but I don't sit down and drink a fifth of it every day. Same goes for tobacco.
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    tennsmoker
  • May 27, 2015
@Ivpipe: You have helped make my point. These large studies overlook pipe smokers. I think a study needs to be run on just the parameters you cite. I agree with you and would like to see the FDA, the CDC or whomever use pipe smokers in a large study for once.
I have smoked a pipe since the early 1960s. Yes, I stopped for about 20 years when my kids were coming along. And when they flew the coop, I dusted off my old pipes, found some old codger tobacco and returned to my beloved pipes. Now, I smoke in a more relaxed manner, not near as frantic when I was a full-time newspaper reporter/editor. In those days, I'd smoke a pound a week!
Today, I may get through a tin once a month, sometimes longer. I go two-three-five days at times without smoking my pipe. In the winter, since I am consigned to the deck, I smoke even less.
Thanks for you comment.
Selah
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    tennsmoker
  • May 27, 2015
@rnewcombe: I have been terribly remiss in not saying thank you for your very kind words about the recent Pipe Pundit column. I very much appreciate hearing your comments and especially am flattered that you would take the time to post a note about your thoughts.
Thank you so much.
Fred Brown
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    reniaeats
  • June 2, 2015
Fred, this was my favorite read on here in ages! Made me smile from ear-to-ear. I'm certainly not an old-timer, or a "traditional" pipe smoker, or a scientist; but it seems to me that the benefit of stress-reduction that most of us younger (I'm 31) pipe smokers get out of our evening smoke might mitigate some of the health concerns of smoking a pipe. I'm convinced that the stress of daily life for my generation is much more likely to kill us than a bowl of tobacco.
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