It’s Like Comparing Fast Food to Fine Dining

Like it or not, all smokers are lumped together into a group, usually for the purpose of casting disdain upon us. This is especially true for the antis who site skewed “junk science” to prove that we’re just behind a monkey with a machine gun in terms of our ability to harm. But there are many reasons why pipe and premium cigar smokers shouldn’t be compared to cigarette users, and that’s the focus of this little post.

– Most pipe and cigar smokers are more moderate in their use of tobacco. If I want to, I can go days, weeks or even months without a smoke. I’ve been in venues for entire days where there’s no place to smoke, and I don’t get twitchy or surly. The main reason is the way that nicotine is absorbed while smoking a pipe or cigar. If you’re not inhaling (and I never do), the nicotine is only absorbed by the mucus membranes of the mouth, which is a very small surface area. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for the nicotine to enter your system this way. Cigarette smokers, who usually do inhale, are exposing the smoke to the alveoli of the lungs, which have a huge surface area, and the nicotine will enter the system very quickly. In fact, it takes less than 10 seconds for nicotine to break the blood/brain barrier. That’s why cigarette smokers experience a “head rush” after that first cigarette in the morning.

– As I mentioned above, most pipe and cigar smokers don’t inhale. That’s because smokers who enjoy premium tobacco products are looking for flavor and aroma more than anything else. Cigarette smokers barely taste their cigarettes, or if they do, it’s only on the first puff or two.

– As proof of the importance of flavor, if a pipe smoker doesn’t care for Latakia, or a cigar smoker doesn’t like maduros, they won’t smoke one, even if there’s nothing else to smoke – they’ll just do without. But if a cigarette smoker is out of their regular brand and want a smoke, they’ll even accept (God forbid!) a menthol light until they can get to a store.

– If a pipe or cigar smoker only has 10 minutes, they won’t try to fit a cigar or a bowl of tobacco into that timeframe. Premium products are meant to be savored, so they’re generally only used when the time permits.

– Regardless of what the anti-smoking zealots say, there’s a major difference in health concerns. Pipe and cigar smokers (again, usually) don’t inhale. That means that the amount of smoke that actually reaches is lungs is miniscule in comparison to a cigarette. I’ve been smoking both pipes and cigars for 40 years and my doctor is amazed at how clear my lungs are, how good my blood pressure is and how low my resting heart rate is. I actually had to inform him of the differences, and although he would prefer that I quit, he now understands that cigarettes are far riskier than cigars and pipes.

– Quality and consistency are not the hallmarks of cigarettes. The companies that make them, with the exception of smaller boutique-type operations, aren’t too concerned about the grade of the leaf or buying from the same farmers. For premium products, quality and consistency is what they hang their hat on. As much as pipe tobacco companies work hard to keep their blends the same year-in and year-out, cigar manufacturers (the good ones, at least) are almost fanatical about quality control.

If you enjoy a handmade cigar or fine pipe blend, you already understand all this, and if you’re like me, it rankles you a bit to be painted with the same broad brush as cigarette smokers, but we know the truth, don’t we?

About Russ

Russ Ouellette is the blender/creator of the Hearth & Home series of tobaccos for in Bethlehem, PA. He has been a pipe smoker and blender for over 30 years, and enjoys feedback from the pipe smoking public. You can reach Russ at or by calling 1-800-494-9144.