Image taken from Pinterest.com
Aye my friends, the time has come to batten down the hatches. There be rough seas ahead that wish to swallow us into the briny depths of obscurity. This foe that has reared its ugly hydra head is known by its official name as the FDA, and it wishes to govern how we pipers enjoy our hobby.
A month or two ago, the FDA announced that it has taken over regulating all tobacco products. Among those products listed included both pipes and pipe tobacco. I won’t go into all the details of what the FDA plans to do, but the main point is that all blends created after February 2007 will have to be submitted to the FDA for approval, with submissions costing $250,000 each. This is not good for us, and it’s especially harmful for smaller pipe tobacco blending companies. Good people are at risk of losing their businesses because of the FDA stepping in and overreaching their claws.
If this bothers you (and it should), you can do something about it! Visit http://www.congressweb.com/nato/199 and sign the petition to your local congressmen and women and alert them that they need to intervene in this serious issue. It’s easy, takes about a minute or less to complete, and already has text filled in for you. I’ve signed it, and I’ve sent others to do the same.
I bring this up not just out of my duty as a pipe blogger, but because it’s been on my mind the past few days. Lately on places like Instagram, I’ve already seen the ramifications of this ruling. Pipesandcigars.com has already announced ceasing production on such blends as their Marquee line, and Missouri Meerschaum has ended their pipe tobacco line that they introduced not too long ago. There’s a panic that’s sweeping through the pipe community, and it’s hit me hard.
While driving home from vacation on Tuesday, I read the news about certain blends ending, as well as ones that are in danger of disappearing all together. Some of these blends have been personal favorites of mine since I started smoking a pipe, and that sent me into a depression that day.
I’ll be honest here, in February I was laid off from my job, and I’ve been on the hunt looking for employment since then. While my wife and I are fine, we’ve had to cut back on spending, which includes my pipe budget. I had just saved enough for an order when the news hit me on Tuesday. I immediately scrapped my plans on what blends I was going to order in favor of stocking up on favorite blends in danger of disappearing.
The night before I made my order I tossed and turned in bed, only ending up with an hours worth of sleep. I knew this could be the last time I’d be able to make an order for a few months, and I dreaded the thought of losing a chance to order some of my beloved blends. I eventually had to get up and play a game on my PC in order to get my mind off of these fears gnawing my brain. It’s a bit embarrassing with how deeply it impacted me, but I have to be honest about it. I even made a conscious effort to avoid Instagram and forum discussions on the topic, or I’d just jump right back into worrying about how powerless I felt, and that’s not a good thing.
I’ve decided that I didn’t want to surround myself in the “sky is falling” mentality prevailing the community at the moment and instead try to be encouraging instead. Bad times might be here, but I’ll be darned if it stops me from enjoying my pipes.
What does it mean for me? For starters, besides stocking up on favorites that could disappear, I’ve decided to focus on filling my cellar with blends I know aren’t in danger of going away. My orders in the future will be less about trying the latest new blends, and more about stocking up my favorites. While this saddens me, I’ve needed to narrow my pipe tobacco purchases anyway. I just wish it wasn’t due to current circumstances that forced my hand. Granted, blends from the past have disappeared before. It’s not a new occurrence, but it was due to pipe smoking falling into decline rather than rules.
I’m also taking a break from acquiring new pipes until I’m satisfied with my cellar. Again, while frustrating, I have enough pipes at the moment that I’ll be fine. I will still pick up a new pipe when I can (and even included a new pipe in my latest order), but I need to focus my priorities.
Most of all, though, is that we as pipers cannot let these new regulations control our enjoyment of the hobby. I will continue to puff my pipe in peace and tranquility in defiance of those that wish to make me conform into what they want me to be. If anything, it makes me want to smoke my pipe more in public and educate others that pipes aren’t the great evil they think they are. People assume that pipe smoking is the same as smoking cigarettes, yet that couldn’t be further from the truth. I smoke a pipe out of enjoyment, and it’s not out of addiction or habit.
Pipe smokers are known for their patience and kind demeanor. While we fight these threats that come our way, let us do so in a manner befitting to us, with a calm but firm temperament in the face of unreasonable opposition. We must educate the ignorant that we are not the slaves to tobacco that they think we are. Likewise, we must show that we don’t condone underage smoking, nor do we enable the underage to smoke until they are old enough to make that decision on their own and are legal to do so.
As I wrote in a previous entry, I began smoking a pipe when I was well beyond the legal age to do so. It was not a decision I took lightly, and did the research into the hobby to make sure I knew what I was getting into. Before then, I was very much anti-tobacco. It wasn’t until I made the effort to educate myself that I changed my views. For our hobby to continue for generations to come, we need to show that we are not the enemy, but well researched people who enjoy pipe smoking.
So while we might live in uncertain times for pipe smoking, don’t let it deter you from enjoying your pipes. Let us instead extol the virtues of the pipe, and continue sharing our current favorite blends and pipes. This is our community, and we must stick together through these rough times.
The seas might be rough out there, and the wind howls like a banshee. So hunker down, place a windcap over the top of your pipe and enjoy that Navy Flake mate. There’s always a safe port for friends here.