07 November 2005

Aromatherapy For Men

Cigarettes have the elegance of a plastic cup of warm Coors. Chewing tobacco has the panache of an hour long farting session. And, cigars, well, they appeal to the same sort of people who crave a Cadillac, but it is an acquired taste that I don't come from the right place to appreciate.

Pipes, however, are an entirely different ball of tobacco. As I was growing up, men I respected in the small college communities where I grew up, mostly with beards, professorial jackets and fancy curved wooden masterpieces, smoked pipes. I still savor the sweat, complex herbal smell of pipe smoke in appropriate quantities. I caught a whiff of that smoke walking past the shop on South Gaylord street today and it all came back in a rush.

Pipes are rare now. Pipe smokers, perhaps because they were more middle class and more succeptible to pressure from middle class health professionals, were among the first to quit when the campaign to quit smoking really took hold as I was growing up. My high school's student smoking lounge was shut down only a few years before I entered high school, it was illegal in Ohio for minor's to buy tobacco, not to smoke it. Maybe, they were concerned about their health and not quite as addicted to niccotine. Maybe, they didn't want to be a bad example. But, for whatever reason, the pipe smoking culture is a shadow of what it once was, which is a shame, even if it was probably the right thing to do.

It is acceptable for women in our society to indulge their sense of smell. Aromatherapy, scented candles, fragrant flowers, perfumes, scented lotions and shampoos, and poupouri, as well as kitchen smells and tricks like my wife's favortie of this season -- boiling away cinnamon and cloves simply because of the nice smell that fills our open dining-living room-kitchen, are all, despite our formally equal sex roles, firmly culturally branded as women's pursuits.

Meanwhile, the old smells associated with men seem to have vanished under the pressure to assimilate into an office environment, which is now the dominant workplace for men. Real leather that you can smell has almost vanished from the wardrobes of your average man. Aftershaves and colongnes are less common than they were a few decades ago. And, pipe smoke has been banished from office buildings and has all but vanished from the scene. Perhaps it is simply a function of better hygenine. Middle class American men are shaved clean and shower and deordorize every morning, and wear the clothing next to their skin no more than once. A middle class man now strives to be ordorless, not to have a distinctively manly smell.

If there were a way to bring back the wonderful scents of pipe smoke, however, without the harm to your lungs that comes from the act of smoking, and the fierce addition that comes from the niccotine in the tobacco, I'd be interested. Because, in our newly liberated world, men could use a few scents to call their own as well.


Julie O. said...

If they can make room sprays that smell like a rain forest, why not pipe tobacco?

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...


Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

A scientific journal abstract has this to say:

"BACKGROUND. National pipe-smoking prevalence data have rarely been reported, and mortality associated with pipe smoking has not been estimated.

METHODS. We analyzed National Health Interview Survey data from 1965, 1966, 1970, 1987, and 1991 to estimate adult pipe-smoking prevalence in the United States. For each of these years, we estimated pipe smoking-attributable mortality from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus, and lung.

RESULTS. From 1965 to 1991, the prevalence of current pipe smoking for men declined 12.1 percentage points (from 14.1% to 2.0%) while pipe smoking remained very uncommon among women. By 1991, pipe smoking was a behavior found primarily among men age 45 years or older. Most men who smoked pipes also used other tobacco products, especially cigarettes. About 830 deaths (range 720-2,495) in 1965 and 1,095 deaths (range 655-2,820) in 1991 were attributable to pipe smoking.

CONCLUSIONS. If current trends continue, pipe smoking will become extremely rare in the United States by the year 2000. Reasons for the decline in pipe smoking may include the lack of appeal of pipe smoking to women and adolescents or the increasingly unfavorable image of smoking behavior in general. Prevention and cessation efforts need to be directed against all forms of tobacco, including smokeless tobacco use, cigar smoking, and pipe smoking."

A miniscule number of women smoke pipes -- less than 0.05 percent.

In the UK:

"Pipe smoking
Overall, 2% of men in 2001 said they smoked a pipe. Among the 60 and over age group 4% of men smoked a pipe. This was a higher proportion than among any other age group; among men aged under 30, fewer than 0.5% smoked a pipe.

Cigar smoking
In 2001, only 5% of men smoked at least one cigar a month, compared with 34% in 1974. However unlike pipe smoking the number of cigar smokers was not concentrated in the 60 and over age group: 4% of 16-19 year old men said they smoked at least one per month.

Women and Cigars
Only a small number of women smoked cigars in 1974, and since the late 1970s the percentage of women smoking cigars has been so small that it is scarcely measurable"

About 1.1% of people over age 12 in 1999 in the U.S. currently used a pipe and about 17.7% had ever done so.

In Australia 1-2% of adults smoke pipes.

The American Lung Association put pipe use at 7.4% in 2000 (presumably more than regular use) and notes that cigarette consumption is down to 1939 levels.