Millennials are making smoking from a pipe cool again
Text by: James Hansen from Nota Design
In this picture, Secretary General of the CPSU Joseph Stalin warmly signs some death sentences while smoking his unlit pipe. In addition to being a nice vice, the pipe has long been a symbol of male authority until – together with the men’s hat – it suddenly fell out of fashion at the end of the Fifties.
More famous pipe smokers include physician Albert Einstein, composers Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach (who composed a celebratory aria, “So oft ich meine Tobackspfeife BWV 515a”), revolutionaries Che Guevara and Subcomandante Marcos, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, philosophers Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre and, in Italy, President of the Republic Sandro Pertini.
Famous female pipe smokers, at least in the West, were much less common, but history reminds us of of two writers, the French George Sand and the British Virginia Woolf: both were famous for their scandalous lives at their time. On the other hand, many fantasy characters used to smoke a pipe, such as Popeye and two great detectives – Sherlock Holmes and Jules Maigret – but also a snowman from the American tradition, “Frosty the Snowman”. During less rigid times from a moral point of view, even the Anglo-Saxon Santa Claus was often portrayed with a pipe in his mouth
And then all of a sudden, in just a moment from a historic point of view, pipes disappeared, probably wiped away by the big commercial success of industrial cigarettes.
Funnily enough, the recent war against smoking seems to be saving this ancient and forgotten tool. The first reaction to the wide-spreading smoking bans, which started in the late Twentieth century, was a predictable boom of cigars, but cigars stink and good ones are expensive. The consumption of cigars in the West reached its peak in 2004 and has fallen each year since then. In the US, the percentage of cigar smokers in the age group between 18 and 25 has dropped from 12.7% in 2004 to 8.8% in 2016, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted annually by the American Government. However, within the same group and the same span of years the use of the pipe has increased by over 40%. The age category is quite significant here. It is a period of life when young males consolidate their vices for many years to come. Currently, the pipe sales are the only growing smoking industry in the United States, even if the number of new pipe smokers is still modest, below 600 thousand people in the whole country. In the same age group, there is a double amount of consumers of “smokeless tobacco”, snuff and chewing tobacco.
Nevertheless, there is a difference. Briar pipes are prestigious and beautiful, while in the US sniffing or chewing tobacco has always been an activity attributed to inelegant rural sub-proletarians. Besides, it looks so good with a beard and a waistcoat, both important parts of the American “Millennial” uniforms. Something seems to be moving in Italy too. Savinelli, the famous manufacturer of smoking accessories, has recently launched a new line of small pipes, designed for young tobacco users who want to overcome the habit of “rolling” their cigarettes by hand. According to the company, these pipes – called “Minuto” – are already obtaining “a steady success”.