Pipe smoking is the practice of tasting or inhaling the smoke produced by burning a substance, most commonly tobacco, in a pipe. It is the oldest and most traditional form of smoking.
A number of Native American cultures had pipe-smoking traditions, long before the arrival of Europeans. Tobacco was often smoked, generally for ceremonial purposes, though other mixtures of sacred herbs were also common. The calumet (called “peace pipe” by Europeans), was smoked in ceremony to seal covenants and treaties. Tobacco was introduced to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century and spread around the world rapidly.
In Asia during the 1800s, opium (which previously had only been eaten) was added to tobacco and smoked in pipes. Madak (the mixture of opium and tobacco) turned out to be far more addictive than orally-ingested opium, leading to social problems in China which culminated in the Opium Wars.
In the 20th century, pipe smoking has been adopted as a preferred method of consumption for a variety of psychoactive drugs and some claim it is a more intense method of ingestion. Smokeable crack cocaine has a reputation for being more addictive than cocaine’s insufflated form. Similarly, methamphetamine has gained popularity in a crystalline form which when smoked in a pipe lets the user avoid the painful nasal irritation of snorting. When not applied to a cigarette or joint, the liquid form of PCP is typically smoked in a pipe with tobacco or marijuana.
A selection of various pipes on a circular pipe rack
Pipes have been fashioned from an assortment of materials including briar, clay, ceramic, corncob, glass, meerschaum, metal, gourd, stone, wood and various combinations thereof, most notably, the classic English calabash pipe.
Water pipes bubble smoke through water to cool and wash the smoke. The two basic types are hookahs and bongs.