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How to smoke a pipe: A beginner’s guide

Everything you need to know about smoking a pipe

Pipe smoking is the most aesthetically distinguished manner of enjoying tobacco. If you don’t know how to smoke a pipe, however, this classy effect is lost. Smoking a pipe has become something of a lost art. These days, most people who engage in it do so out of a sense of nostalgia. Perhaps you had a grandfather who enjoyed a puff now and again, maybe along with a good whiskey, or you aim to emulate some pipe-smoking artist. Whatever the case, you intend to take up the time-honored tradition of unwinding with a pipe.

So, how do you smoke a pipe without looking like an amateur? As with most endeavors, it all starts with the right equipment.

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Everything you need for smoking a pipe

Cropped Hands Cleaning Smoking Pipe At Table.

There isn’t an overabundance of gear that goes into smoking a pipe, but you will need a few essentials:

Your pipe of choice

Pipes come in all varieties, from your basic corncob pipe to simple wooden pipes to highly ornate carved pieces that border on works of art. Which is right for you has more to do with personal aesthetic tastes than anything.

Wooden matches or a pipe lighter

While the traditional Bic can work, it’s not the easiest tool for getting a flame into the bowl of your pipe. Wooden matches or long pipe lighters are the easiest way to get the job done.

Pipe tamper

Not necessarily essential, these are useful for packing your bowl and help add to your overall classy look.

Pipe cleaners

If you’re going to be puffing a pipe on the reg, it will get clogged.


Which tobacco is right for you depends on your experience with tobacco and your personal tastes. If you’re new to smoking pipe tobacco, a mild blend is your best way to ease into things. Ask your local tobacconist for recommendations.

Now for the meat of the matter …

How to smoke a pipe

A man smoking a pipe.

Smoking a pipe isn’t a quick activity like having a fast cigarette during a break at work. This is a leisurely activity in which you give yourself a moment to slow things down a bit. So for starters, carve yourself out a good chunk of time to sit and enjoy a good pipe, as the saying goes.

Once you have the time and space to enjoy said pipe:

1. Pack the bowl

Fill the bowl with a loose pinch of tobacco, then press it down gently with the tamper. It should now be filled about halfway. Top it off with another pinch, then tamp it down again. At this point, the bowl should be about two-thirds of the way full. Now add and tamp one more pinch of tobacco, leaving a tiny bit of space to the top of the bowl.

2. Test draw

Before lighting, give it a few quick test puffs to make sure that air flows freely. If it doesn’t, start over.

3. Light up

If you’re using matches, ignite a match and give it a moment for the sulfur to burn off — otherwise, it’ll ruin the flavor of the tobacco. Apply the match or lighter flame to the bowl in a circular motion, drawing gently on the pipe all the while. Usually, it will light once in what is known as a “false light.” Let this go out, then do it once more for a “true light.”

4. Puff  — don’t necessarily inhale, though

Unlike a cigarette, when smoking a pipe, most people don’t inhale into their lungs. As with a cigar, pipe tobacco tends to be rather strong, and the whole experience is more about flavor. Enjoy taking little puffs of smoke into your mouth.

5. Pace yourself

Don’t attempt to smoke your pipe too fast — you might get what experienced pipe smokers call “tongue bite,” which is a burning, irritated sensation across the surface of your tongue. Puff at a leisurely pace and enjoy. It’s not uncommon for a pipe to go out and require relighting several times within a single smoking session.

6. Clean out when finished

When your session is over, be sure to tap or scrape out the bowl, as letting it sit for too long can make it difficult to clean later. If your pipe is making a gurgling sound or sensation, moisture has built up in the stem and it needs a deeper cleaning. Regular cleaning is also important for ensuring that the taste of the tobacco isn’t tainted.

For all intents and purposes, you now know how to smoke a pipe — enjoy!

From here, getting the most out of your pipe smoking experience is largely about the company you keep. For some, a pipe is a great way to sit in solitude and reflect on the day in peace. For others, smoking a pipe is a social activity intended for good conversation.

Whichever you prefer, you now have a more civilized way to have a good smoke.

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