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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Parallels: Pipes and E-cigarettes

By Chris Rentner
Twitter: @thepipebit

Increasingly, many pipe smokers are augmenting their vice with using e-cigarettes, known as “vaping.”  Just two examples, on YouTube, are Aristocob and Skeletal Piper.  It seems there are good reasons for pipe smokers to be fond of e-cigs;  pipe smoking and vaping are quite similar machines, and here are four reasons why: 

 Flavor Variety:   The flavor choices in pipe tobacco are endless.  An aromatic can be anything-  vanilla, cherry, whiskey, crème brulee—and so can e-juices.  This variety of flavors—the eternal process of sampling, finding a taste you like, and then getting the itch for something different—is well-known to pipe smokers.  E-juice makers have profited on this model of something for everyone (or at least something to try once).  Searching for the right flavor for your tastes is wonderful, if sometimes frustrating—this is something, to paraphrase the Boondock Saints,  that people of all creeds and countries can agree on.

The Hobbyist and The Ritual:   Like pipes, once one really develops a passion for vaping, the possibilities are staggering.  Rebuilding coils and atomizers, customizing your set-up and collecting different models all appeal to the desire for a hobby, which can, like collecting or making pipes, turn into a passion.
Smoking a pipe is part ritual—selecting a blend, filling the briar, lighting, tamping, running a pipe cleaner through it.  This has a strong mirror to vaping—choosing a e-liquid, filling the carto or clearo, re-assembling the vaping unit, puffing away.  The comfort of this, to a veteran pipe smoker or vaper,  cannot be underestimated, and is intrinsic to the enjoyment of a pipe or e-cig.

The Few, The Knowing:  Although a few pipe tobaccos and e-cigs can be found at a gas station, the truly good stuff is online, or at a specialty retailer.  This fact creates and nurtures a clique—those in the know can smoke Prince Albert and Blu cigs, but the “real” aficionado enjoys Samuel Gawith or a Provari.  This also, disappointingly, can enforce a snobbery that can damage any hobby, and drive away newbies; but for the most part, the “insiders” enjoy, cherish and share their info with their fellow partakers.  And feel, crucially, that they belong to part of a community.

The Outsiders.    At the same time of feeling like a member of a community, there is, conversely, a whiff of “the Other” in both pipe smoking and vaping.    The pipe hails as an artifact from history—“Oh, my grandfather smoked a pipe!”—and the e-cigarette became popular only a few short years ago.  In effect, then, you have products from different times that both have a reputation of being strange, out of place, even somewhat intimidating. And, in our times, smoking has been driven out almost wholly of public life, and hence to be seen smoking (or something that looks similar) is to rebel against the conformity of modern society, a statement that one is an individual (even though many indeed enjoy the same passion).  The “outsider-ness” of pipe smoking, and the strange sight of clouds of vapor emanating from an e-cig, go together:  you shall indulge as you wish, and if others object, or are offended—well, you are happy, at least; you have your vice, your pipe, your e-cig, and you enjoy it.

And, after all, enjoyment is the point of these similar machines.


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