Stopping Time

Stars and Stripes:

Cigars, once banned, fire up troop morale in Afghanistan

Whatever their reasons for starting, military, civilian and contractor members of the Tali-banned Cigar Aficionado Club here say it’s more than a nicotine fix. It’s a bond of friendship, an escape from the drudgery of deployed life and a taste of home.

The group takes its name from the fact that the Islamist Taliban had once forbidden smoking, among a list of social ills including television and the internet. But the Kabul club revels in the vice, which builds community and remains popular among the troops despite efforts by military brass to snuff it out.

If the Taliban banned television, I suppose it must have been a telly-ban(!). And isn’t it so interesting that the Taliban and ISIL share the same values as Tobacco Control. They are birds of a feather.

It’s not clear how or when cigars became such a part of military life, but Storm Boen of Operation: Cigars for Warriors, a Florida nonprofit that sends care packages of free premium smokes to deployed U.S. service members, said the charity’s research found that they were requested more than any other item.

Since May 2012, the group of 389 volunteers, which had relied on donated cigars from manufacturers before the practice was outlawed this year, has sent more than 700,000 free cigars to deployed troops — all by request.

It’s always seemed perfectly obvious to me why soldiers smoke: fighting wars is a high stress occupation, and smoking relieves stress.  Of course soldiers will smoke. And if they can’t smoke tobacco, they’ll smoke something else.

What may make cigars especially coveted, Boen said, is that unlike a cup of their favorite java from home — the second-most requested item in his research — consumed as a part of a daily routine, a stogie is often enjoyed socially and has the effect of briefly “stopping time.”

A retired Army first sergeant, Boen said he started Cigars for Warriors because smoking the rolls of tobacco had been an important part of how he and his troops came together to decompress, celebrate a victory or have frank discussions.

“Stopping time” is interesting. It’s not something I’ve experienced. Cigarettes don’t have that effect on me.

But maybe cigars actually do “stop time.” And pipes as well. Both deliver considerably more smoke than a single cigarette does.

I very seldom smoke cigars. They’re quite expensive. It took me about three quarters of an hour to smoke a large cigar sat out on the lawn in Devon one summer a few years back. It left me quite light-headed. Pipes have a similar effect. Maybe time did stop, sat out on the lawn that day? I certainly remember it well.

I must re-activate my pipe. I tried smoking a pipe for a while, but I found it too difficult and demanding. A pipe always seems to be needing to be re-lighted. And it’s a big heavy thing. And I have no idea what to do with it when I’m not smoking it. If I put it down, it rolls over and deposits its contents on the table. I don’t know why pipes aren’t designed with flat bottoms so that they’ll stay upright. Einstein kept his pipe in his jacket pocket, so his pockets must have been full of ash and little bits of paper with e=mc² written on them.

Cigarettes aren’t so demanding. You can hold a cigarette between fingers or lips. And if they go out – and roll-ups often do – they’re easy to relight. And they can be parked more or less anywhere, although best of all on ashtrays.

But pipe smoke is actually better than tobacco smoke. It’s richer and more powerful and pungent. And maybe when you smoke a pipe, time really does stop for a while.


About Frank Davis

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22 Responses to Stopping Time

  1. Vlad says:

    I recently switched to a pipe – it’s quite a different world both from cigarettes and cigars. Cigars are quite big, expensive, storage is a headache and their smoke is quite ‘meaty’ – so for my taste they’re not suited for everyday smoke, more like on celebrations. With pipe tobacco, there’s a lot of variety compared to cigarettes, which all pretty much taste the same. Pipes are a bit more demanding than cigarettes, but they’re also more rewarding. I have a few briar pipes which are very light and depending on how much I fill the bowl, I can smoke up to 30min or so.

    Thing is, in a pipe you smoke 100% tobacco (of which as I said there are plenty options to choose from). In a cigarette, 10% or so is paper (which I came to realize by removing the tobacco from a few cigarettes and burning the paper separately, has a very nasty/irritant smoke) and the rest is low quality tobacco (reconstituted sheet, expanded and so on).

  2. Darryl says:

    “And maybe when you smoke a pipe, time really does stop for a while”.

    Time might not stop when you smoke a pipe but you do have to take time out from what you’re doing. You have to pay attention to them, be mindful of what you’re doing. Filling and lighting a pipe is like a ceremony.
    The tobacco is different than cigarettes, usually a Cavendish. Pipe tobacco is fire cured for up to ten weeks. This is what gives it a smokey aroma and flavour. Fire curing makes the tobacco low in sugar and high in nicotine.
    I love my pipe and the calm pleasure it brings and that’s why I hate Tobacco Control so much.

  3. slugbop007 says:

    Speaking of pipe smoking I just discovered that the Quebec goverment has banned flavoured tobaccos.

    They also just introduced a city wide asinine, stupid, illogical, ridiculous, absurd, pointless, nonsensical, irrational, farcical, idiotic no smoking nine-meter ban. I live in a social housing unit with 120 other people. They play Bingo every Thursday night. They used to smoke in the community hall until that was prohibited. Since then they have gone outside in front of the building to light up. That has now been banned, unless they smoke near the sidewalk or in the middle of the street. The edict was posted on the door at the front of our building yesterday. I would love to sabotage it but they have hidden cameras near the front entrance.

    The public health minister here in Quebec has a very long job title which includes Saine habitude de vie (healthy life habits) at the end of it. This woman, Lucie Charlebois, is also responsable for protecting the children (protection de la jeunesse).



  4. slugbop007 says:

    Scratch Prague off my list.


  5. slugbop007 says:

    If you’ve listened to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody 397 times already then you better quit now before it’s too late. Try Debussy’s La Mer instead.


  6. slugbop007 says:

    I. E. the tobacco tax increase, Barack Obama probably found a pile of IOU’s on his desk in the Oval Office during the first weeks of his presidency and many months later. An IOU to Pharma and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was probably at the top of that pile. 


  7. slugbop007 says:

    Harleyrider1978 says: December 11, 2016 at 7:03 pm

    Fear mongering for profit in non profits is the game cancer is but one of the emotional based tools employed!

    Look at the ACS the richest of all NPOrginizations!

    In the end how much per dollar actually gets to real research for the tool used to invoke giving!

    I read somewhere that it was around 18 percent.


  8. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Thanks Gary for posting to Iro what happened and

    Merry Christmas

  9. Harleyrider1978 says:

    Facebook gestapo headquarters has me locked away

  10. Smoking Lamp says:

    Smoking cigarettes can also usher in a time for reflection. Smoking helps focus the mind. Cigars are for celebrations and often shared, but over the years I can say the same thing for a cigarette. I have never smoked a pipe but remember seeing them as a child in the 60s. Allowing places where smoking can be enjoyed (both indoors and out) is a sign of a civilization that cherishes freedom. That type of society must be restored!

  11. George Speller says:

    A Falcon pipe has a flat bottom.

  12. jaxthefirst says:

    “It’s been more than that — I’ve gotten to talk to people I probably normally wouldn’t.”

    I’ve long suspected that that was one reason why so many companies were so keen to ban smoking in their premises prior to the legal requirement – because smoking is a sort of “leveller.” When everyone was forced together in their free time at work, then inevitably they got chatting. And there’s something about chatting over a coffee and a smoke that steers the conversation away from work and off into other, more personal topics. Then, later, the (non-smoking) aspirant middle-manager would discover to his horror that the new office junior was already on first-name, chatty terms with the VP of the company, whereas he (the middle manager) was still only at level of the forelock-tugging, unknown minion whom the VP never gave a second glance to!

    • Barry Homan says:

      I’ve made the observation before, jax. The anti-smoker is the person in the group who gets ignored, for the most part. This is why I believe that the anti-smokers, above all else, simply want attention. Try an experiment: take any place of work and make a separate breakrooms for smokers and non-smokers…which room will attract the most people? The rabid anti-smoker will find himslef sitting all alone in his smoke-free zone, staring at the wall.

  13. Roberto says:

    I have only smoked prime cigars, pipes and hookas for the last 33 years. Before I smoked mostly cigarettes (for 10 years). After switching to cigars and pipes I smoked an occasional cigarette without inhaling but have not tasted one in 25 years. Cigar smoking is for me a family tradition: my father and grandfather were both regular cigar smokers.

    Cigar and pipe smoking are truly different habits from cigarette smoking. Cigarettes are more “practical” because you simply smoke them at any pace you want and throw away the butt. They last 5-10 minutes, so are ideal for a quick smoking break. Pipes and large prime cigars cannot (should not) be smoked on a hurry, but in a relaxed mood and with time, ideally with a paused smoking pace. A pipe smoked at a fast intense pace (to avoid having to light it up frequently) will burn your tongue, something that cigarette smokers trying a pipe for the first time complain about.

    There is no special care or maintenance required for cigarettes, while pipes are old fashion artisan objects that are not disposable and require care and maintenance and their own special gear: the tobacco tamper tool, pipe cleaners, etc. Prime cigars also require maintenance and gear (a humidor, a cutter).

    The pleasure in prime cigars, pipes and hookas is not from the deep inhalation hitch, but enjoying the smell and taste of the smoke in your mouth and nose, so most pipe/cigar smokers puff without inhaling. This (and the lack of burned paper and chemicals) explains why smoking cigars and pipes (in moderation and without inhaling) is much less of a health risk that cigarettes, something seen in epidemiological studies. However, pipes and decent sized cigars produce much more volume of “second hand” smoke, thus less harm for the smoker does not prevent tobacco controllers from stigmatizing cigars and pipes as they do with cigarettes. Yet, a lot of politicians and military personnel enjoy prime cigars, so authorities have been more lenient: you do find nice and accessible cigar bars where you can puff your cigar indoors even in smoking unfriendly paces like NYC or Miami.

    Definitely, smoking prime cigars and pipes are not enjoyable for every smoker, but historically (before 1890’s when massive industrial cigarette manufacturing was introduced) all tobacco was either smoked through cigars or pipes or chewed. The word for cigars in many Spanish speaking countries is “puro”, meaning “pure” because a full 100% of the material involved in manufacturing a prime cigar comes from the tobacco leaf. Perhaps the pendulum may swing back and we will return to the old fashioned historical ways of enjoying tobacco.

    • Frank Davis says:

      Cigarettes are for busy people. Pipes – and even more so cigars – are for people with plenty of time on their hands – people who can take the time to slowly fill a pipe, and then light it, while not doing anything else.

      I also think that cigarettes are primarily a military innovation. The military (at least when they’re fighting wars) are busy people. They don’t have time to fill and light a pipe. Or smoke a cigar. Except (as in the piece above) when the fighting is over.

      And also packets of cigarettes remind me strongly of clips of bullets. Cigarettes even look a bit like bullets. And chain-smokers are like machine gunners, with a constant stream of cigarettes being delivered to the firing chamber.

      Of course, cigarettes and cigars and pipes are also all candles. But that is a separate matter..

  14. Briar Tuck says:

    Terrific idea, Frank.

    @George Speller:
    “A Falcon pipe has a flat bottom.”

    Correct! A Falcon has a tremendous amount going for it as a first or occasional pipe. No, they aren’t for pipe purists, but that state comes later. A Falcon is consistent, smokes very nicely and is easy to maintain so it’s never a hassle. The mistake most people make with pipes is usually with the associated bits & bobs — if you get these wrong, your pipe will very quickly become nasty and frustrating.

    A Falcon is a modular system. All Falcons are an assemblage of bowl, stem and mouthpiece, and in theory you can more or less combine these as you want. The stem includes the bottom of the bowl and is usually flat, and it’s made of aluminium so it radiates heat easily. The bowl screws onto the stem, meaning that you can get to the bowl from underneath, making cleaning easy, and the gap between the two isn’t a hole — it’s ring-shaped (like a slim Polo mint) so the draw is even, doesn’t block easily, and discourages ‘hot spots’.

    Apart from your Falcon and some tobacco, you need a tamper and round-ended cleaning knife (usually combined into one tool; search “Joseph Rogers”), some Falcon pipe cleaners (they’re made very slim to fit the stem’s airway) and some kitchen roll. You can also get a cleaner spray (Falcon branded) with a nozzle to fit the mouthpiece, but that’s more of an ‘annual service’ thing. All of these are slightly more expensive than the generic equivalents, but cost less over time because they’re designed specifically for the job, so you use them up more slowly.

    Start with a mild tobacco — any of the ‘Dutch’-style blends such as Borkum Riff or Alsbo Black. Your aim is to learn your pipe, and you don’t want anything too extreme while you do this. Learning how to fill and light it so that you get a good 20-minute burn which will relight easily is the most important thing, without which you’ll never find out how the tobacco really tastes anyway.

    And yes, a pipe is contemplative — but it’s also good for situations where you need to concentrate and be absorbed, such as writing, playing the piano, a spot of light woodwork, or in former times, being Prime Minister.

    Finally, learn to spot a pipe-fraud. One of the golden rules with a pipe is that the bowl should never, ever, even in storage, be higher than the mouthpiece (hence the popularity of ‘bent’ styles). Ignore this and you get bitter residue (“dottle”) running up the stem, which is pretty vile and necessitates immediate and thorough cleaning. Any product or person advocating this is therefore an utter fraud.

  15. Pingback: Downtrodden Smokers Will Revolt One Day | Frank Davis

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