On 20 February each year, pipe smokers the world over unite to celebrate what they like to consider ‘the art of pipe smoking’. Linking back to the traditions of ancient cultures like the Native Americans, who engaged in peace pipe ceremonies, International Pipe Smoking Day promotes the socialising and relaxing aspects of the ritual of pipe smoking. The great Albert Einstein, himself a pipe smoker, once said “I believe that pipe smoking contributes to a somewhat calm and objective judgment in all human affairs”, no doubt referring more to the ritual of pipe smoking than to the smoking itself.
The oldest traditional form of smoking, pipe smoking has in modern times lost ground to cigarettes, yet the ‘dying breed’ of pipe smokers appear to be making somewhat of a comeback, with water pipes, also known as a ‘hookah’ or ‘shisha’, becoming particularly popular. Pipe smoking is promoted as a less dangerous and more socially acceptable form of tobacco smoking.
I’m in no way pro-smoking, and tend to feel that saying pipe smoking is less dangerous than cigarette smoking is a bit like saying being shot by a 9mm bullet is less dangerous than being shot by a .45. In defence of pipe smoking, however, I guess one can at least make the point that there are ‘social pipe smokers’ who perhaps smoke only once or twice a day, while cigarette smokers tend to be much heavier smokers, resulting in correspondingly higher health risks.
As far as socially acceptable goes – while the pipe smoker may believe he looks more sophisticated than the cigarette smoker next to him, his habit is equally frowned upon anywhere cigarette smoking is prohibited.
To all pipe smokers – happy International Pipe Smoking Day. I leave you with a popular story about the French historian and statesman Francois Guizot. When he was an advanced age, a woman saw him smoking a pipe. “What! You smoke, and yet have arrived at so great an age?” she gasped. “Ah, madame,” he replied, “if I had not smoked, I should have been dead 10 years ago.”