The Root Cause of Tongue Bite

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Briar Lee

Sep 4, 2021
Humansville Missouri
When I was starting out in pipe smoking, I was taught that pipescan cause tongue bite because the concentrated tars of the smoke stream going through a tiny hole, chemically cause a reaction on the tongue.

Today I’m researching tongue bite and lots of people believe that superheated steam causes a thermal burn.

So I’d like some help.

Is tongue bite chemical, or thermal, or maybe a little of both?


Can't Leave
Aug 12, 2021
I believe it's both. I know it can be steam; which is quite obvious. And I'm pretty sure that it can be chemical too, I have not seen any studies on it, but it seems quite reasonable.

But there are different situations in which tongue bite may occur, and in which the different "kinds" of bite may appear based on some factors.


Oct 16, 2020
I assumed it was just hot steam, but reading various posts over time on here from many who experience it with certain types of tobacco and not others, and assuming they don't prepare it or smoke it differently, that there is a chemical component. So I'm in for a little of both and just a complete guess. Only experienced it in a minor way one time and I've made plenty of mistakes in technique and/or preparation, which is part of why I think it may be an individual, "chemical" thing (in part).

Then again, I often bite my tongue when reading certain essays on the glories of Lee pipes! :)

Piping Abe

Oct 27, 2021
Georgia, USA
I have gotten tongue bite from checking the draw on my pipe from The new Half & Half. No flame was brought to the tobacco. I love Half & Half but can no longer smoke it sadly. So it would be chemical in my opinion.
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Apr 16, 2021
Kansas City Missouri

This brief article seems to sum things up in my opinion.

Briar Lee

Sep 4, 2021
Humansville Missouri
I’ll have to think about it but I was surprised to read anybody considered it to be super heated steam.

If it is a thermal steam burn, what about all those kids you see puffing on vapes?

That is 100% super heated steam.

And why don’t cigarette and cigar smokers complain about tongue bite?

It’s been about fifty years since I researched why a pipe bit your tongue as a beginning pipe smoker. My tongue then was bit quite often, until I learned to subconsciously avoid it, by technique.

All these years, I’ve assumed it was a chemical burn and the way to avoid it was learning to slow down the smoke stream laden with irritants, and choosing milder tobaccos, and a filter helps a little.

But if it’s hot steam, then the only cure is to cool the smoke stream.

Which smoking slower does.
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Starting to Get Obsessed
Nov 14, 2021
I'm no expert, but in my experience I can load and smoke two different tobaccos the exact same way and one will bite me and one will not. So it's either certain tobacco's or my personal chemistry, or both. I never get bit from Burleys, and luckily those are my favorite so I'm okay.


Starting to Get Obsessed
Jun 10, 2022
Formosa, Taiwan
So many things can cause tongue bite.
The Aromatic tobaccos can burn a little bit hotter than other non-aromatic tobaccos.

Thermal damages situations be like:
If you draw the flame too deep when you lit the pipe. Or puff frequently thus the smoke too hot can cause tongue brun.
Drying tobacco, loose packing, smoke slowly, and cool soft drinks can prevent thermal tongue bite.

There is also a chemical burn:
It is mainly the damage caused by the erosion of tar to the mucosal tissue. The surface of the human tongue is covered by many tongue papillae. So, it is easy to absorbed tar, which can easily cause damage to the tongue! It is best to clean your mouth after finish a pipe, and gently brush the surface of the tongue with a soft-bristled toothbrush, which should ease the symptoms.

Briar Lee

Sep 4, 2021
Humansville Missouri
As in a lot of things in science, there is an almost certainty it is not of one singular cause
Any pipe smoker that’s made one puff too many and sucked a hot ember through knows, there can be thermal burn.:)

But controlling thermal burn means lowering the temperate of the smoke stream.

It means Babe Ruth, was right.:)


But if caused mostly by the irritants in tobacco it’s much harder to avoid.