The Future of Pipe Smoking

The Future of Pipe Smoking
July 24, 2013 The Pipe Guys

Have you ever found yourself wondering what the future of pipe smoking is? Will we still be smoking our beloved pipes in thirty years? Or will the ultra-liberal-with-everything-but-surprisingly-conservative-with-tobacco political party get their way and have a tobacco-free world in glorious 2043? We think about that very often. After all, what would The Pipe Guys be if there were no pipes? We would just be The Guys, and then none of you would be even remotely interested in us. Amongst other things, in order to keep tabs, we often consult The Oracle (google) for insight. It provides some very interesting information, which we’d like to share with you.

The Data

First of all, we can look at search terms as an indicator of interest. For this example we’ll choose the search term “pipe tobacco”. This graph represents search interest in the term “pipe tobacco” represented relative to it’s historical popularity. All that means is that if it scored a 0 yesterday, and a 100 today, yesterday was the least popular day in recorded history, and today was the most popular day in recorded history.

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The larger rectangle on the left is 2009. The average search interest for the term “pipe tobacco” in 2009 was 72.6.

The smaller rectangle on the right is 2013 (so far). The average search interest for “pipe tobacco” so far this year is 84.0 which represents a 15.7% increase in overall interest.

So it could be said that the United States is 15.7% more interested in pipe tobacco today than it was in 2009.

For reference, let’s look at another graph for the same dates. Let’s take a term like “new cars”, which are far more popular than pipes.

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Aside from an odd spike in August 2009, the graph is very linear. In fact you can see that the search interest in new cars has been declining slightly each year since 2009.

This may be a nerdy approach, but it means good things for all of us, at least on the interest front. Spreading the word about quality pipes and tobacco, attending pipe shows around the country and the world, and perhaps most importantly filling our own bowls up and enjoying the ritual has started to get the attention of those around us.

An Expert's Opinion

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In addition to the numbers, we have had many conversations with established pipe retailers and manufacturers around the world in recent months and years, and the consensus is unanimous. Executives from other popular pipe and tobacco retail websites have all told us that there has been a steady increase in sales of both pipes and tobacco in recent years. Additionally, during a visit to the Peterson pipe factory in Dublin, we asked Tony Whelan (the Peterson factory manager and a wonderful gentleman) what his thoughts were on the current market for smoking pipes. His reply: “We can hardly keep up.”

In a world of declining consumer spending and aggressive sales initiatives, this is very encouraging to hear, and I think we can all use a bit of encouragement, what with all the negativity that pipe smoking affords us on the legislative front. So far it seems safe to say that the legislators share a different sentiment than the rest of the community we live in. We can never know what the future holds, but we can try to preserve a bright future for this our pastime by practicing it responsibly, informedly, and often.

Comments (3)

  1. tspe 10 years ago

    I like you very much, guys, and it is great, what you are doing, but – statistics don’t work just in one way. The Google Graph says, there is more SEARCH interest in pipe tobacco. It doesn’t say, that there is more GENERAL interest in pipe tobacco. If you want to play with reliable data, you have to match the increase of the specific search term with the increase of other search terms around the consumer goods – and NOT with products of the car industry. IMHO the investment in a new car is not comparable with buying tobacco at your local dealer. Who wants to buy a new car a few years after the financial crisis, when a lot more people are unemployed than five years ago?
    Take a look on search terms like “greek cheese” and “fountain pen” and you will see, that there is an increase on the same level as for “pipe tobacco”. There are probably a lot of reasons for that. One could be the increasing consumer usage of Google into the buying process. I don’t know the e-commerce market in the United States very well, but in Germany I can see a yearly progress in online sales for consumer goods. More and more people are using the internet for buying products, that are available just a few food steps away in a local store, too. Because of time savings and a better shopping experience. So the increase of the search term “pipe tobacco” is also an impact of the changing shopping behavior.
    The growth of our worldwide pipe smokers community is a cultural quest. In Germany it is still a hobby of old men, most with no stylish attitude. You need to enthuse younger men and women for pipe smoking by selling the attitude of the good life and the benefits of craftsmanship, like it is done by the slow food, craft beer and third wave coffee movements. There is still a long way to go – but let me say just one more thing: You are doing it right!

  2. Joey T. Montore 11 years ago

    So I really don’t mean to be negative and I surely hope and expect that what you’re saying is true. I know as a member of the generation behind the main pipe community, I’m doing my best to spread this culture to my friends and peers.

    But I guess what I may also see in your conclusion of the “Google Search Interest” graph is also showing the related issues of the Roll Your Own community. You’ve written about the people who are moving to using pipe tobaccos in their cigarettes. Perhaps, as the cigarette taxes increase and now the tobacco for the RYO also increase, there is an increase interest in finding a pipe tobacco that smokes like a normal cigarette tobacco?

    Like I said, I truly hope that the increase is seen in the true pipe smoking community because I think it is an important aspect of contemplation and visitation with peers. I just hope it’s not skewed by the interest in RYO tobaccos.

    Completely unrelated note, have any of you read “Toward a Theology of Pipe Smoking” by Arthur D. Yunker? There is a free PDF of it somewhere in the interwebs and I highly suggest this read. It’s only about 70 pages but the man writes witty, thorough and honestly makes a beautiful art out of our hobby. It’s very interesting and I think you should do a piece on pipe literature and good reads for the pipe smoking community. Maybe even start a book club type community through The Pipe Guys?

    Just a thought. Thanks for everything you guys do!

    • Phil 11 years ago

      I’m a cynic through and through, so I would probably be the first to agree with you, but having personally spoken with people in the industry the world around, I can tell you that everyone is feeling the effects of this. Pipe factories are maxed out on production, retail websites are selling more than ever before, and blenders are increasing their output.
      Perhaps more importantly than the increase in interest here in the U.S. is the massive expansion of the pipe market in the East. China, in particular, is becoming a massive consumer of pipes and tobacco. If it all goes to hell and the FDA crushes pipe tobacco in the U.S., then 我要去中国!

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