We've all heard a million, billion, gazillion times from the media and our government about the negative aspects of smoking. But who wants to be a "Debbie Downer" and talk about that stuff? Not me!
Today, I want to talk about the benefits we derive from the hobby or lifestyle of pipe smoking! And, by this I'm referring to the mental, emotional, and even physical benefits of smoking a bowl of good pipe tobacco. So, let's break it down.
What are the mental benefits we get from piping? For starters, studies have shown that compounds found in natural tobacco, when smoked, are known to relieve stress and anxiety. Having a bad day? Is your boss a jerk? Worrying about paying bills or being able to set aside enough for retirement? The good news is that smoking a bowl of pipe tobacco can be a way to get some temporary relief from these everyday stressors and worries. Without getting into the technical/medical mumbo jumbo, the compounds in natural pipe tobacco - primarily, nicotine - stimulates the "feel good" receptors of the brain, which, in turn, sends signals to the rest of your body that helps you to relax. Pretty awesome, right? It is, but it does come at a price ... over time, your brain's "feel good" receptors will become desensitized from the artificial stimulation caused by smoking. However, compared to the negative health issues that long-term anxiety has on the human body -- chronic sleep deprivation, excessive weight gain, inflammation, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, etc. -- a few billion desensitized "feel good" receptors seems to be a small price to pay to avoid much more detrimental health issues. Not to mention that society kind of frowns upon killing that person who seriously stomped all over your last raw nerve and stressed you out beyond your limit, so it's better to have a smoke and relax while contemplating other, non-lethal forms of revenge. ;D
The emotional benefits of piping kind of go hand-in-hand with the mental benefits. When you feel good emotionally, you feel good mentally. Think about it. How many times have you felt down in the dumps, reached for your pipe, and after smoking a bowl of your favorite blend, everything was right in the world once again? For that matter, you don't even have to feel down in the dumps in order for smoking a bowl to make the world feel right again. Our sense of smell is linked to the areas of the brain that control our emotions and store our memories, so when we open a tin or smoke a bowl, the aroma of the tobacco we smell triggers those memory areas of our brain. If we have good memories associated with a certain aroma, smelling that aroma triggers those good memories and helps to put us in a better emotional frame of mind.
For example, when I open up a bag of Sutliff's 504C English Aromatic, the aroma of the blend brings back memories of the smell of the pipe shop - The Tinder Box - where my dad took me when I was a kid and the good times we had bonding and doing "manly" things on those trips. And, those memories always help to put me in a better mood when I've had a hard, stressful day. When I smoke Gawith Hoggarth's Top Black Cherry, the aroma plunges Michele into wonderful childhood memories she has of sitting on her grandfather's knee and sharing a cup of milked-down coffee after dinner while her grandfather smoked his pipe. More often than not, recalling those fond memories puts Michele in a better mood than eating a box of chocolates. Please don't tell her I said that! 🤫 😱
Also, many pipers have reported receiving positive comments from passers-by of how the aroma of their pipe smoke brought back good memories of their husband, father, grandfather, uncle or brother who also smoked a pipe. So, the emotional benefit of smoking a pipe not only applies to you ... it also extends beyond you and has a positive impact on those around us. Nothing feels better than making others around us feel happy!!
In addition, there's the emotional benefit of higher self-esteem. Back in the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, and even the 80's, the media (radio, television, movies, music) played a big role in selling the "cool factor" of smoking. I remember, as I'm sure many of you do, seeing the iconic images of James Dean or Jimmy Stewart with a cigarette in hand; Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, and Carol O'Connell (Archie Bunker) with their cigars; or Olivia Newton John with her ultra long cigarette in Grease, to name a few. Then, there were the iconic pipe smokers ... Sean Connery, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, and even Tom Selleck and Pierce Brosnan. They were/are the epitome of "cool" for many generations of smokers.
Then, came the 90's and early 2000's with their "down with smoking" theme and all out war against cigarettes. Interestingly, that war didn't extend to cigars or pipe smoking. Interestingly, too, how cigar and pipe smoking is perceived as more distinguished or elegant. And, rightly so. I bet you can picture in your mind right now the image of a smartly groomed man wearing a well-cut tweed overcoat, with a vest and crisp white shirt underneath, impeccably tailored wool pants, and highly polished shoes holding a beautiful pipe in his hand or clenched between his teeth. It's the quintessential image of a well-to-do gentleman. When we achieve a version of this image -- the sophistication, suaveness ... coolness -- for ourselves, it boosts our self-image and self-esteem. When we have a high self-esteem, we feel more confident and have a more positive attitude and outlook on life, which, in turn, has a positive effect on our overall physical health.
Which brings us to the physical benefits of smoking a pipe. These come from the alleviation of stress and anxiety. Did you know that high amounts of stress, especially when it's chronic, is known to significantly increase the risk of ailments ranging from the common cold to severe heart disease? When chronic stress is left untreated, in time it can result in chronic migraines, stomach ulcers, stoke, asthma, high blood pressure, a plethora of digestive issues, and a severely weakened immune system that can give rise to cancer. It also can impede your ability to focus, cause frustration and anger that has a negative impact on your relationships, and cause depression. However, when you take steps to reduce and manage stress in your life, not only do you alleviate the risk of developing stress-induced physical, mental/emotional ailments and improve your own health and well-being, you are, in a real sense, helping those around you.
Most health resources focus on exercise and meditation as ways to manage stress, and that's fine. But, sometimes more is better. Who doesn't enjoy smoking a bowl of a good English pipe tobacco blend on a crisp autumn day while taking a walk through the woods? For that matter, is there such a thing as a pipe smoker who doesn't kick back and meditate on the day (week, month, life?) over a bowl of their favorite leaf?? While exercise and mediation is great, I think the "health experts" are leaving out an important part of the equation -- the benefits of pipe smoking! Even the Surgeon General's 1964 and 1979 studies on pipe smoking shows that pipe smokers who smoke 4 or fewer bowls of pipe tobacco per day live longer than non-smokers!
So, the moral of this story is quite simple ... grab a pipe, pack it with your favorite tobacco, light it up and either head out for a nice walk (don't forget a pipe wind cap!) or kick back with your beverage of choice and meditate! Not only will you reduce your levels of stress and anxiety, you could be increasing your life span and helping others around you feel better as well. Who said pipe smokers weren't awesome?!?!
The Story Teller