The War on Tobacco
Is the Pipe Community Doing Enough?
By Horace Harker

January 2008

If you are connected to the pipe smoking community in any way,

In the past few years I’ve increased my smoking pleasure by adding cigars to the weekly rituals I employ to help give closure to the end of a long day, to keep me company when there’s time to kill or to keep me entertained through periods of boredom. I’ll always be a pipe smoker first, I love the nostalgia and history that comes with pipe smoking but it’s nice to be able to add even more variety to an almost overwhelming variety of tobacco choices. Cigars offer many of the same pleasures, and history, that pipe smoking does but with a different ambiance, so to speak. For example, you might compare it to the difference between vacationing in Europe as compared to the tropics; you enjoy the scenery, the culture and the relaxation of each but in uniquely different ways. But this article isn’t about smoking cigars; however it was my recent affair with cigars that drew my attention to an issue I feel needed more awareness in the pipe smoking community. It has to do with the harsh reality that our liberty to enjoy tobacco is in seriously jeopardy and it doesn’t appear to me that the pipe smoking community is doing its part in defending that liberty. I’m not sure how much we can actually do but as the saying goes ‘there’s strength in numbers,” and our numbers are needed. I believe there’s still time.

I’m always on the lookout for current tobacco news to include in the SHPC Gazette so when I heard all the commotion about the “cigar tax” I began researching it a little more. Good friend Paul Bonaquisti alerted me to the fact that it wasn’t just a tax on cigars it was a tax on all tobacco but because cigars were to be the hardest hit (up to a 6,000% tax increase) many called it the “cigar tax”. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this bill here is a brief summary:

H.R. 3963 is a bill to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which currently provides 6 million low income families with free healthcare. The funds for the extended program would come from increasing the taxes on tobacco. The premium cigar industry would be the hardest hit with a potential tax increase of up to 6,000% but it wasn’t only cigars that would be taking the hit, pipe tobacco, roll your own, snuff, chewing tobacco and cigarettes would also be hit with a tax increase of 256% - 814%.       [More on tax breakdown]

Think about this bill for a minute…. does it make any sense to you? Let’s see… they want to wipe out tobacco use in America but they also want to help children get the health care they need. What a brilliant idea! Let’s tax the beJesus out of tobacco users so we can fund the children’s health insurance program. We can kill two birds with one stone. Its genius, absolutely genius, and who in their right mind would ever be able to say NO to helping the children? We wipe out tobacco and fund health care for the poor children all at the same time.
But wait a minute…. something isn’t quite right. If we wipe out tobacco where’s the money going to come from to pay for the insurance program? Hmmm…. hadn’t thought that far ahead. Well at least we can wipe out tobacco…… right? Hey…maybe we can tap into black market tobacco (which is where this could be headed) to pay for the health insurance?? Then again, there’s always obesity… we could get McDonalds and Burger King to pay for it... yeah… that might work.

Taxes like these could all but kill the tobacco industry here in America not to mention the thousands of workers in countries like the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Honduras who could also lose their jobs because of it. And the last time I looked, our Nation wasn’t anywhere close to winning the popular vote.

So I’ve made it a point to become more enthusiastic in doing my small part to help preserve our right to enjoy tobacco and to hopefully encourage others to do the same. I have to be honest though… it often feels like a losing battle which makes it that much more difficult to stay enthusiastic. But the more I thought about that, the more I realized that many of us, especially those of us in a diminishing community of pipe smokers, must feel the same way. Or is it possible that we feel like we’re above it all? I assure you we are definitely not. I can’t help but feel that we’ve put on the blinders and taken on the attitude that….”They’ll never completely wipe out smoking, I’ll at least be able to smoke at home,” or “Others are fighting for me so we should be ok..” Or even, “I’ll just keep smoking until I can’t smoke any more, maybe it’ll never happen.” But what if it does happen? What will we do then? How many of us ever really thought something like 911 would happen right here in the U.S. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that the end of tobacco would be anywhere near as catastrophic as 911. I am however, talking about a loss of freedom and liberty, things this country was built on or have we forgotten about this? I’m afraid many have.

While digging a little deeper into the issue I became aware that the only voice I was really hearing in our defense was from the cigar industry and cigar smokers. Granted, they would be hit the hardest but as I already mentioned, we’d all take a pretty big hit, and who’s to say it would stop there? Who really wants to pay another penny in unfair taxes anyway? I guess we could always look on the bright side… if a bill like this ever does pass then at least we wouldn’t have to worry about the smoking bans any longer…. after all who needs to worry about where they’re going to smoke if they can’t afford to buy anything to smoke in the first place??

The cigar community has dozens of entertaining and informative websites and podcasts that educate and amuse the reader or listener on the fine art of enjoying cigars. These mediums are also very good at keeping their audience informed about any impending legislation that may affect them (and us) and offer suggestions on ways that they can help. I’ve also seen a number of cigar related YouTube videos on the web, both serious and humorous but both with the same goal, to inform and educate the public about the threat to tobacco or to encourage us to help preserve our rights as Americans. Most of these websites, podcasts and videos are easily found with simple searches in Goggle and other search engines.

On the other hand I have found less than a handful of pipe related websites that mention the SCHIP bill or encourage pipe smokers to take action. I was happy to find a few SCHIP posts in a number of the more popular forums, however these were not found easily through the standard Goggle search but through specific searches at specific locations. I found no pipe related podcasts and many of the YouTube videos that resulted from my search were of people producing massive amounts of smoke with their pipes or just smoking their pipe without any commentary; nothing that shines a very positive light on this time honored tradition of ours.
I was particularly disappointed to see that the more prominent pipe organization websites like P&T Magazine, The North American Society of Pipe Collectors, The Chicagoland Pipe Collectors Club website, the Conclave of Richmond Pipe Smokers and The United Pipe Clubs of America had also failed to mention anything about the impending tobacco taxes or encouraging pipe smokers to get involved. I don’t get it, are they not concerned? Do they know something we don’t? I’ve already experienced a decline in interest in pipe shows where smoking is no longer allowed. This seems like a pretty serious issue to me.

Let’s do a quick review of the whole anti tobacco issue. They say tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. They also say that environmental tobacco smoke or second hand smoke can also cause harm to those exposed to it over time. They use the term “tobacco use” but what they’re really talking about and what brought attention to this issue in the first place was the death and disease rate allegedly caused by cigarette smoking. Let’s be honest here, there is a definite difference between cigarette smokers as compared to pipe and cigar smokers. I think most of us would agree that the large majority of pipe and cigar smokers are not addicted to nicotine because they don’t inhale. Pipe and cigars smokers don’t smoke, they “enjoy tobacco”. I know this from experience since I have smoked pipes and cigars daily for many years and never feel the cravings that cigarette smokers feel when they can’t smoke. I could easily go on an extended vacation without having to take any tobacco with me at all (although I would definitely miss it). Now on the other hand, I think we would all agree that most if not all cigarette smokers ARE addicted to nicotine. Why is this… because they inhale smoke into their lungs all day long? They don’t smoke because they want to; they smoke because they need to. This causes more health issues with cigarette smokers which in turn effects an already mismanaged health care system that’s been dying to find a way out of the mess it’s in. So what do they do… they begin a campaign to wipe out smoking altogether. They start by defaming and demoralizing smokers to the point where even the smokers themselves become convinced they have become second class citizens. Next came the tax increases and the junk science around second hand smoke which was obviously used to lump all smokers together and to make non smokers not only dislike us but despise us. This was followed by smoking bans across the country and the world. How many of you could believe it when they banned smoking in the pubs of Dublin, Ireland?? I still can’t believe it. Then it began to affect a smoker’s ability to find employment. Some places wouldn’t hire you if you were a smoker (even at home) and other places threatened to let you go if you refused to quit. Now they’re back at it with SCHIP and thanfully the President has vetoed it twice and we may not have to hear about it again until 2009 (if we’re lucky).

For years now pipes and cigars have been banned from many public places but I’m sure that if legitimate research was done on those of us who “enjoy their tobacco” rather than those addicted to it, I’m fairly certain they would find that the health risks associated with our group would be considerably less than those of cigarette smokers. Unfortunately, I don’t believe this type of research will ever be done and if it is it will not be enough to convince an already brainwashed society. I’m also certain the anti tobacco regime will continue their efforts to snuff out tobacco completely.

But the prohibition of alcohol was lifted so possibly there’s some hope. I believe that honest research, fair legislation and reminding people what our Constitution was built on are the keys to an agreeable end to the war on tobacco in America. Here are a couple of points legislators, law makers and the American people should consider before making any future decisions about tobacco use:

First, let’s be fair. In America, if two people are arrested, one for drunk driving and the other for murder, do they both receive the same sentence? Both have broken the law but shouldn’t they both get a fair trial? Shouldn’t the one with the more serious offence get a harsher sentence? Do you think the average American would feel it was justified if both of these crimes were punishable by life imprisonment? The point being, if we treat our citizens who have broken the law fairly, why don’t we apply that same fairness when making laws for people who abide by them? Tobacco is legal! Not all smoking groups are the same and the laws governing them should be different.

Secondly, do the proper research. If tobacco laws are successful and tobacco use becomes extremely reduced or even non existent, how can we be certain that this will even improve the life expectancy of Americans? Research has shown that fifteen countries have a male life expectancy 2 to 4 years higher than that of American males and in all but 2 cases the smoker’s prevalence rates in those countries was notably higher than in the U.S. Particularly in Japan, the life expectancy figures from 1994 show the life expectancy of Japanese males to be 76.5 years with a smoker’s prevalence rate of 59% as compared to males in the U.S. with a life expectancy of 72.6 years and a smoker’s prevalence rate of 28.1%. What is the explanation for this? Why can people in some countries smoke more and live longer than we do in the U.S.? Maybe there’s more to it than tobacco use? Maybe tobacco isn’t even the issue?? Taking the easy route doesn’t always make the best sense.

The IPCPR, International Premium Cigar and PIPE retailers (formerly RTDA) are doing all they can to fight for our rights. You don’t see the word cigarette mentioned there do you? The cigar community seems to be trying to do something about it so why isn’t the pipe community?? We need to get more involved, the organizations with the biggest voices need to start doing something, saying something and encouraging participation in the fight. Let’s be Americans and do what Americans do best…. Fight Back! We still have time.

Here are some things you can do to help:

  • All people who enjoy tobacco – sign up for the IPCPR Alerts emails. But don’t let it end there, if they ask you to take action, then take action. Email, write and call your representatives. They make it very easy for you, just follow the instructions. And remember, a letter is better than an email and a call can be better than a letter, but all three are the best. Help spread the word and do all that you possibly can.
  • High visibility pipe organizations – you have more clout, more connections and people will listen to you. So say something, do something, show us that you care about our future. What’s a pipe show without pipe smoking? What’s a magazine without something to write about? Don’t let our history end here.
  • Pipe Clubs – make your members and readers of your websites aware of what’s going on. Make sure your websites are easily found. Make information about tobacco laws available on the front page. Help educate the pipe community, provide links to more information. Pipe smokers
  • Techno savvy pipe smokersstart a website, start a blog, start a podcast, put a respectable and informative video on YouTube. Put your skills to good use.
  • Start a pipe club. – There is information out there on ways to get a pipe club started in your area. Yes, it’s difficult to find places to meet but if we all start doing something about it, maybe it’ll get easier.

Can you believe there are places where you can’t smoke in a public park, on a beach and they are even trying to keep you from smoking in your cars and homes and may have already been successful in some places? There are cities and towns where you can’t even smoke in a smoke shop. This is absolutely ludicrous! Are we going to stand for it? I hope not. Please do what you can to help.

If your group, club or organization is doing their part and I have missed or overlooked it, I apologize. I welcome feedback and will post information on the good work you’re doing in a future newsletter.

For the record, I am not an advocate of cigarette smoking for obvious reasons. However, I do believe all smokers have the right to smoke if they choose but I feel it is extremely important to make the distinction between those who smoke for enjoyment and those smokers who are addicted to nicotine. Either way, we all need to stand up for our rights.

Pipes smokers have been know as “thinkers.” Now we need to start a little more “doing!”

Thanks for taking the time to read this article and thanks in advance for doing what you can to help stop the madness.

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