The Hazards of Using Pipe Tobacco
Armeen Poor, MD, is a board-certified pulmonologist and intensivist. He specializes in pulmonary health, critical care, and sleep medicine.
Smoking tobacco out of a pipe has been a worldwide practice for centuries. Historically, pipes were used in ceremonies with the practice gradually gaining mainstream popularity over the years as an accepted way to smoke tobacco. Shops sprang up that catered to pipe (and often cigar) smokers. Flavored blends sold in bulk could be sampled right on the premises in smoke rooms set up for patrons.
Pipe smoking has been dwindling in use since the 1960s but is still favored by a small percentage (approximately 2%) of smokers in the United States today, especially older men. Pipe smoking is still common in Sweden, where as many as one-quarter of adult males smoke a pipe.
Pipe Tobacco Ingredients
Pipe tobacco is loose-leaf tobacco most commonly grown in northern middle Tennessee, western Kentucky, and Virginia. It is fire-cured, which involves slowly smoking the drying tobacco leaves over a smoldering hardwood fire inside of a barn or structure.
The process can take days to weeks, and the end result is a tobacco that is low in sugar and high in nicotine. Most pipe tobacco is aromatic, having had a flavoring added to the finished product that gives it a depth and richness in taste and smell.
Pipe tobacco is addictive. An average pipe bowl contains 1–3 grams of tobacco, with the nicotine level per gram averaging 30–50 milligrams. Smokers don’t tend to inhale pipe smoke as much as cigarette smokers, but some nicotine still reaches the bloodstream after being absorbed through the lining of the mouth.
You might think that because most pipe smokers don’t inhale, the health risks are minimal. While there isn’t a lot of scientific data on the health effects of pipe smoking, we do know that there are risks.
Pipe smoking is associated with a number of illnesses that are common in cigar and cigarette smokers. For instance, pipe smokers face an elevated risk of cancers of the mouth, including the tongue, larynx, and throat. Smokers who inhale pipe smoke also have an elevated risk of lung, pancreatic, and bladder cancer.
Pipe smokers face an increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While cigarette smoking is usually the main cause of COPD, other forms of tobacco like pipe-smoking and cigars can also result in tobacco smoke inhalation and damage to delicate lung tissue.
People who smoke pipes might face an elevated risk of death from heart disease, especially those who inhale the smoke. More research needs to be done in this area.
Health Risk Comparison
You might wonder how smoking a pipe compares to other types of smoking in terms of health risks. There is data comparing pipe use to cigarette and hookah use.
Researchers who have looked at health risk differences between the pipe smoking and cigarettes have concluded that they both carry essentially the same risks for early death from a number of diseases that can be linked to tobacco including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Ischaemic heart disease
- Lung cancer
- Various other smoking-related cancers
The only appreciable difference between the two forms of tobacco use is method and frequency of use. Pipe smokers tend not to inhale (as much) as cigarette smokers, and they smoke less often during the course of a day.
Starting with the knowledge that both hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco are hazardous to health, let’s take a look at the differences between the two.
Amount and Frequency
A hookah pipe bowl can contain 10–15 grams of tobacco, while most regular pipe bowls hold 1–3 grams of tobacco. Hookah is typically smoked at a hookah lounge or in a social setting, so hookah smokers might only smoke once every few days or once a week. Pipe smokers also smoke infrequently, but many light up a pipe once (or a few times) a day.
A hookah session can lasts 45 minutes to an hour, with smokers inhaling as much as 10mg of nicotine from the 300mg to 750mg of nicotine in the tobacco. A bowl of pipe tobacco is smaller and smokers don’t inhale as much, so getting an accurate measure of nicotine absorption is difficult. However, a 3-gram bowl of tobacco with 150mg of nicotine can deliver a small amount of nicotine into the bloodstream.
All tobacco products contain a number of toxins that come from a variety of sources: pesticides in the field, additives, and chemical changes that occur when tobacco with additives are burned. Tar, arsenic, carbon monoxide, and polonium-210 are just a few of the chemicals that are harmful to human health in tobacco smoke.
To date, upwards of 250 poisonous chemicals and 70 carcinogenic compounds have been identified in tobacco and tobacco smoke.
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended a rule that gives the FDA regulatory authority over all tobacco products, including pipe tobacco. The manufacture, packaging, and labeling of all tobacco products must meet FDA guidelines, as well as how products are advertised, promoted, sold and even imported.
As of Dec. 20, 2019, the legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S.
The FDA also has authority over components used with tobacco products. In this case, that would mean the pipes used to smoke the tobacco.
All newly regulated tobacco products in the U.S. are required to include the following warning label on packaging: “WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.”
If the manufacturer submits a self-certification form to the FDA, along with proof that their newly regulated product is nicotine-free, then the required label will read: “This product is made from tobacco.”
Ultimately, federal regulation over tobacco products helps to protect consumers. While all tobacco products are hazardous to health, FDA guidelines are meant to ensure that manufacturers are not able to secretly manipulate tobacco recipes in ways that could cause more harm than they already do.
A Word From Verywell
It has been well documented that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. This is true regardless of the form tobacco comes in. Smokers and non-smokers all face risks to their health when breathing in tobacco smoke. If you are a smoker who is trying to find a “healthier” alternative to cigarettes, know that the only good choice is to wean yourself off of tobacco entirely.
There are a number of ways to quit successfully. Nicotine addiction is enslaving, and quitting is difficult, but it’s possible to do the work now to quit and shed the limits addiction puts on your life. Others have done it and you can, too.Is pipe smoking a healthier way to use tobacco than smoking cigarettes? Learn about the risks associated with pipe smoking.
How is pipe tobacco made
Pipe Tobacco is one of, if not the oldest form of consuming tobacco in the world, dating back centuries to its first usage by the indigenous peoples of America. When sailors first brought tobacco from America to Europe in the 16th century it was also consumed in wooden pipes. The first consumers added ingredients to the tobacco including honey, liquorice and spices, prefiguring the pipe tobacco we know today. Traditional European pipe smoking was a popular form of tobacco consumption until the 1960s. However, from the 1980s onwards European pipe tobacco use declined significantly, and today very few smokers continue to use the traditional pipe.
The importance of this traditional European activity has been recognised by organisations including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In the Netherlands, the culture of pipe smoking has been awarded a place on the national inventory of Intangible Heritage under the UNESCO Convention.
Tradition & Appreciation: Pipe Smokers
All pipe smokers share a passion for pipe tobacco itself, with its many different characteristics, tastes and smells. They share a passion for the countless varieties of pipes, and they appreciate the skill necessary to correctly prepare and fill a pipe. But above all they cherish the moment they can smoke their pipe, contemplating life and taking a break from our ever more hectic lifestyles. They are true aficionados and have set up pipe smoking clubs and smoking groups to share their experiences.
Pipe tobacco uses many varieties of tobaccos, including Virginia, Burley, Kentucky, Latakia, Oriental and Perique. These tobaccos are combined in different ways, along with ingredients added to highlight certain flavours, to make up the many different pipe tobacco blends available on the market. It is this variety of blends that sets pipe smoking apart from other forms of tobacco consumption, and which makes pipe tobacco production more artisanal than other mass-produced products. This restricts the manufacturing of pipe tobacco to mid-sized companies that can practice the craft involved.
The major pipe tobacco cuts are:
Pipe Tobacco Manufacturing
Pipe tobacco is manufactured in the EU by mid-sized companies, many of which have been family-owned for generations. A large proportion of the companies have been based in the same place for the past 100 years or more and are pillars of the local community. Pipe tobacco manufacturing is more labour intensive than manufacturing other tobacco products, making these companies very significant local employers.
These artisanal and specialist companies have had to make significant investments in machinery and administrative support following the introduction of new EU legislation. The particularities of pipe tobacco and its manufacturing are often overlooked by officials and politicians. This has cost many communities much-needed employment, for example due to arduous tracking and tracing requirements that do not account for the unique production profile of pipe tobacco. This system for tackling illegal trade, which must be in place by 2024, ironically involves much higher costs for pipe tobacco, a product which is not smuggled at all.How is pipe tobacco made Pipe Tobacco is one of, if not the oldest form of consuming tobacco in the world, dating back centuries to its first usage by the indigenous peoples of America. When ]]>