A Movement to Pipes: It's the Economy
Cigar smoking is a lifestyle commitment ... and investment. Unless you're smoking low-end cigars, your daily spend is at least $5 and could reasonably reach $10. If you truly go upscale, you're looking at $20 a day or more, with boxes starting at $450. It becomes expensive quickly, and today, people are reconsidering how they use their "fun money." Unsurprisingly, pipes are gaining popularity as a cost-effective smoking alternative without forcing you into the nasty world of cigarettes.
At first, pipe smoking appears to be pricey. To enter the world of briar, you could lay out hundreds of dollars – even thousands. And, since you can't buy just one pipe, the cost multiplies. Once you get past the initial purchase, though, pipe smoking is quite affordable. Top pipe tobacco brands cost less than $15 a tin ... roughly the cost of a cigar.
Like cigars, pipes range from garbage to entry level to high-end. Generally, quality follows price. A $5 corn cob is what you would expect, and hand-crafted Dunhills – which can sell for more than $1,000 – may be a bit much for someone testing the waters.
Gallery: Dunhill Pipe Dinner
I started with a $160 Savinelli, a machine-made pipe which smokes quite well. It was sufficient for experimenting with different pipe tobaccos and learning the rituals of packing, lighting, smoking and cleaning. For a bit more, you can start with a Radice pipe (which Law & Order SVU actor Richard Belzer enjoys), adding a touch of luxury even to a novice smoker.
The attraction of pipe smoking in this economic climate is the satisfaction f smoking without the high cost of cigars. a $200 pipe and a $10 tin of tobacco offers as much smoking time as a box of cigars at roughly the same price. But, when you buy that next tin of tobacco, you don't have to buy another pipe. Even a $150 pipe is designed to last a lifetime.
After you select a pipe, you're faced with a dizzying array of tobaccos from which to choose. It's natural to worry that you'll pull from the shelves that won't suit you. Michael Bowman, the resident pipe expert at De La Concha, and the man who initiated me into pipe smoking, advises that mistakes aren't a big deal. "If you buy a tobacco that you don't like, you've only spent $10 or $11." He continues, "Have you ever bought a cigar you don't like? It's the same amount." He suggests that you give a tin that doesn't agree with you to a pipe smoker, as goodwill is rarely forgotten.
Pipe smoking may be a substitute for cigars, but the experience is not the same. The feel, flavors and physical involvement are much different. If you wind up enjoying a pipe, it will become an alternative ... and a less expensive one. For others, it may be a way to stem the outflow of cash for a bit, at least through the recession.
Whether pipes will work for you is, of course, a personal decision. The increase in pipe sales is showing that many cigar smokers are open to the possibility.