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Men & Smoking:
What’s All the Hullabaloo About?

Dylan Lloyd Catlett
collage men smoking

While marijuana and other harmful narcotics are praised, legalized and even prescribed, tobacco is censured. Society leaves no room for debate on the issue. Smoking is no-good, bad, horrible and will push Grandma Stephanie off a cliff. Pay no attention to the mind-altering properties of "weed," but always remember that smoking tobacco will kill you.

Of course, I exaggerate, but I hope my exercise in humor has been instructive. Charges have been leveled against tobacco disproportionate to the amount of harm its consumption really causes.

Such ignorant panicking is common in the US. Bees and other insects usually kill more people than mass shooters do every year, but what gets all the attention? As there is an agenda against firearm ownership, so too is there an agenda against smoking. The world is upside-down.

The problem of cigarette production

Cigarettes have long been the favored medium of nicotine consumption in the US and in much of the world. So, it was foreseeable that cigarettes would become the modern face of tobacco. This, however, is a problematic development, as I will outline.

Cigarettes: Made more of chemicals than tobacco

Pipes and cigars – as well as other tobacco products – overshadowed cigarettes for a long time in terms of consumption. During the waning years of the 1800s, however, cigarettes began to be increasingly marketed to the working classes. The Industrial Revolution facilitated this: Cigarettes are simply not very costly to mass-produce.

The wars of the 1900s also catalyzed the growing popularity of cigarettes. Soldiers found their use more convenient and cheaper than pipes and cigars. Thus the military services came to include cigarettes in soldiers’ rations. It was not long before cigarettes overtook other tobacco products in popularity.

All this came at a very dear cost. Cigarette producers ever sought to maximize consumption while minimizing costs. Because of this, your typical cigarette now contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 70% of which have been linked to cancer.

The effects of nicotine, harmless in itself, are made more powerful by the addition of various chemicals added in the pursuit of repeat business. There is more: “Reconstituted tobacco, known as ‘sheet’ in the cigarette industry, is a major ingredient in modern cigarettes. It is manufactured from the recycled stems, stalks, scrap, collected dust and floor sweepings from tobacco manufacturing plants.”

Cigars: their trade is their art

What is in your typical pipe tobacco? Tobacco… and a gourmet selection of non-dangerous and natural ingredients included solely to enhance the experience of the smoke, not as a result of greed and negligence.

portrait of man smoking cigar

A cigar provides enjoyment for a simple workman

What about your typical cigar? It has a similar composition, with some differences. Some lower-quality brand cigars may contain questionable additives, but respected pipe tobacco and cigar companies take care to make quality products.

Their trade is their art, their time- honored tradition. Why else would McClelland close its doors when it could no longer promise its customers the same high quality they had previously offered? The same cannot be said of cigarette companies, whose trade has been intensively commercialized at the expense of their customers' health.

How can one compare smoking a boutique tobacco blend produced by a local tobacconist to smoking a cigarette mass-produced in a filthy factory and contaminated by massive amounts of industrial chemicals? Sadly, the difference is too great to even suffer a comparison.

Statistics prove cigar smoking is not deadly

Make no mistake –there can certainly be some harmful chemicals in pipe tobacco and cigars. However, their chemicals are fewer in number and in lower concentrations than what cigarettes contain. Additionally, it must be noted that cigarette smokers tend to inhale their smoke, while pipe and cigar smokers do not. This difference should not be thought of as minimal, especially in light of how many more chemicals are found in cigarettes, as well as the fact that cigarettes are usually smoked in greater amounts.

It is no surprise, then, that increases in the rates of death for pipe and cigar smokers were found by the Surgeon General to be essentially insignificant.
  • “The death rates for men smoking less than 5 cigars a day are about the same as for non- smokers. … The death rates for pipe smokers are little if at all higher than for non-smokers, even for men who smoke 10 or more pipefuls a day and for men who have smoked pipes more than 30 years.”

  • Whereas:

  • The death rate for smokers of cigarettes only … is about 70% higher than that for non-smokers. …

    “The fact that the over-all death rates of pipe and cigar smokers show little if any increase over non-smokers is very difficult to reconcile with a concept of high nicotine toxicity. In view of the mortality ratios of pipe and cigar smokers, it follows logically that the apparent increase in morbidity and mortality among cigarette smokers relates to exposure to substances in smoke other than nicotine.”

Smoking can improve the quality of life

So why do cigarette smokers die at much higher rates than non-smokers while pipe and cigar smokers do not? It is because modern cigarettes are contaminated with many more chemicals, they are consumed in much greater quantities due to their synthetic addictivity, and cigarette smokers tend to inhale their smoke.

We do not have a Big-Tobacco problem. We have a Big-Cig problem.

Moderation is the key

I will not argue against indications that smoking of any kind may have a causal link with various cancers. But need I remind you all that many activities you likely engage in now have the potential to kill you or decrease your lifespan? Drinking alcohol and eating sweets can also end or shorten your life when done in excess. But it is not logical to cut these out entirely. When these things are enjoyed in moderation, alcohol and confectioneries can have benefits that improve one’s quality of life.

Smoking is no different – it relaxes the mind, helps one to focus, and is conducive to good socialization among men.

Based on the Surgeon General’s report, moderation in pipe and cigar use seems incredibly easy to achieve. In fact, smoking to excess appears difficult to do. Paraphrasing the Surgeon General, to even begin to approach an inordinate usage level, one would have to smoke at least five cigars or ten pipefuls of tobacco per day.

On online forums, I have learned that average pipe smokers only smoke one bowl of tobacco every few days. Some go weeks or even months between sessions. Cigar smokers have similar habits. Clearly, these activities are quite different from smoking cigarettes. One does not rush outside to quickly "get a fix" with pipes or cigars, and most pipe and cigar smokers smoke nowhere nearly as often as does the average cigarette addict.

A good pastime for men


J.R. Tolkien enjoying a meditative smoke

Smoking is a pursuit that was traditionally associated with men. It took a propaganda campaign by Sigmund Freud’s nephew to make smokers out of women.

Tobacco helped yesterday’s man focus on his daily duties and then give him respite when he was finished. Done with the day, he could meditate more easily with the aid of good tobacco. Smoking also helped to join men together in social and intellectual groups.

All these benefits are enjoyed today by pipe and cigar smokers. Seeing another smoker relaxing in an armchair at the tobacconist, a man joins him for a smoke. They talk about the news, or perhaps shared interests. Other men join them and a group forms. Maybe they are all part of a smoking club which regularly meets. Each man leaves edified in some way by the others.

Perhaps because of these benefits, J.R. Tolkien, who gave us The Lord of the Rings and other great works of fiction, once said, “Every morning I wake up thinking, 'Good, another 24 hours of smoking.’”

Catholics should not be hostile to tobacco, which even Popes and Saints have consumed. In A History of Catholicism and Tobacco, it is noted: “What was anathematized was not its use per se but rather its use prior to or during the liturgy. And especially by the clergy, who were expected to maintain the absolute purity and cleanliness of the altar, the liturgical vestments, and of the hands that were consecrating the Host.”

Pius IX tobacco

Pius IX constructed this tobacco factory in Rome in 1863, for the processing of nicotine leaves.

Many Saints availed themselves of tobacco. St. Pius X was a known enjoyer of snuff and cigars, and St. Joseph of Cupertino smoked so he could better “stay up at night for his devotions and extend his fasting.”

To boost the Vatican City economy, Pius IX even constructed a workplace on Piazza Mastai in Rome for the processing of nicotine leaves for a papal cigar.

When smoking has all these benefits for men, is it really any surprise that it has come under such harsh attack by modern society? One may conjecture that perhaps the tainting of cigarettes with chemicals and waste material was not the result of greed and carelessness, but was done on purpose to kill smoking. I have suspected this for years.

I would like to finish by stating that my arguments are not influenced by an addiction to nicotine, as some might suspect. I am not a smoker and have never smoked. I have simply arrived at these conclusions via an unbiased review of the facts, as well as knowledge of current and former smokers. Tobacco is smeared because people tend to associate all its products with modern cigarettes. To attack a good pastime for men is to abet the Revolution.



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Posted on February 15, 2023

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