The Future of Pipe Smoking in Canada
by Charles Lemon (DADSPIPES), All Rights Reserved, January 2019
Tobacco is under attack – and losing.
Unless you’ve been living in a fallout shelter for the last 30 years, no one should be shocked to hear this. Most of us have grown up hearing about the evils of tobacco and the industry behind it. Anti-smoking campaigns, increased understanding of the effects of smoking on human health, and restrictive legislation at all levels of government have combined to see tobacco use decline sharply over the last two decades.
According to the latest numbers, only 13% of Canadians are current smokers. Contrast that number with approximately 50% in 1965 and the trend becomes clear – smoking prevalence has declined by 0.74% each year for the last 50 years. If this trend holds, it’s possible that smoking will become statistically insignificant in Canada in less than 20 years. If 2018 was any indication, the tobacco industry has done the same projections.
The pipe tobacco industry, already a niche market, lost two major producers last year when McClelland Tobacco, a fixture of the American pipe scene for nearly 50 years, closed it doors. Not long afterwards the pipe world was rocked by the announcement that Dunhill, a company founded on the sale of high-end pipes and tobacco, was ceasing production of its iconic pipe blends.
Now before we all start running around crying that the sky is falling, let’s take a collective breath. The truth is that as long as there is profit to be made, pipe tobacco will continue to be sold commercially, though we can anticipate a much reduced range of product offerings and increasing retail prices. We can also expect to see the continuing migration of pipe tobacco sales from small, local B&M’s to a few relatively large online e-tailers, which will probably not be based in Canada. Many of us already purchase from one of a handful of sites that ship to Canada from the USA, in spite of high import duties.
Though pipe smokers make up a mere one half of one percent (0.5%) of tobacco users in Canada, that number has remained relatively stable over time. This tells me that pipers really love their pipes. So just what can the average piper do to help ensure that their pipe is always full?
Build Your Cellar. I think most of us are already doing this, carefully tucking away precious tins and jars of favourite blends for the future. If you can afford to buy in quantity, there’s no time like the present – tobacco isn’t going to get any cheaper.
To forecast your future annual tobacco needs, multiply the number of pipes you smoke (or want to smoke) weekly by 3g (an average bowl’s worth of tobacco) times 52 weeks. For example, Todd smokes his pipe 3 times a week on average. This puts his projected annual consumption at 3 x 3g x 52 weeks = 468g annually. If Todd wants to cellar a ten year supply of pipe tobacco, he’ll need to put away 468g x 10 = 4.68kg or 10.3 lbs of tobacco.
Buy Local. If you want to continue to be able to walk around the corner to your local B&M for a tin of pipe weed, support your local tobacconist now as much as you can. Canadian pipers get riled by domestic prices (one 50g tin of pipe tobacco in Canada can cost four times the price of the same tin from one of the US online retailers), but without direct support from local customers, brick and mortar tobacconists will cease to exist.
Grow Your Own. For the true die-hard pipe smokers, growing your own pipe tobacco is a viable option if you’ve got the time and know-how (or the willingness ot learn). Under Canadian law, it is perfectly legal for individuals to grow up to 15kg of tobacco per adult living in the household for personal consumption annually– the equivalent of three hundred 50g tins. One tobacco plant will yield two to four ounces of dried, cured tobacco, so six plants can produce up to the equivalent of twelve 50g tins at a fraction of the cost of buying tobacco at retail prices. If you’re a relatively light consumer, you could very well grow a year’s supply of tobacco in your back yard garden or in containers on a balcony in the city.
Don’t have the space or time to grow your own leaf? In Ontario it is also legal for an individual to buy or import up to 3kg of raw tobacco leaf annually. (Canadians outside of Ontario should check their provincial laws.) This means you can buy several different varieties of tobacco (virginia, dark-fired, burley, etc) and make your own pipe blends.
For more information on growing your own tobacco, check out these online resources:
https://www.leaf2smoke.ca (Canadian source for whole leaf)
https://www.leafonly.com (US source for whole leaf)