Perspectives on Smoking (pipe)

«Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.»
Obi-wan Kenobi in «Star Wars IV: The Return of the Jedi»

It’s always interesting when some fixed issue is suddenly seen from a different perspective. I had my share of “red pill” moments. But recently, I did look into something I could never understand during the past (more than four decades) …


Just did not make any sense to me. Anything justifying it would be an immediate red flag and scream big tobacco manipulation. And cigarette smoking still does not make any sense to me, but I think pipe smoking does — somewhat. I did stumble upon the following video by Dieter Niermann (“Pfeife rauchen: Häufig gestellte Fragen (3) – u. a.: “Tabak: Gift oder Genuss?”). It’s in German, I’ve transcribed and translated (well, DeepL did most of the work) the relevant text below (interesting bit starts at 5:50).

The relevant passage is:

“Was mir auffällt bei den Tabak-Gegnern, das ist die ganz andere Sprache, und die ganz andere Haltung, vielleicht nicht nur zum Rauchen sondern zum Leben insgesamt, die sich da immer wieder ausdrückt. Man kann richtige Gegensatzpaare in den unterschiedlichen Anschauungen bilden. Tabak-Gegner kommen sprachlich aus einer — ich sag mal ganz brutal — aus einer Kultur des Todes. Und das will ich auch belegen. Tabak-Gegner, die sprechen wenn sie das … wenn Sie über Tabak oder wenn sie über’s rauchen sprechen, sprechen sie zunächst einmal von Gift, das wir zu uns nehmen. Während die Pfeifenraucher von Geschmack sprechen. Die Tabak-Gegner sagen: “Das stinkt doch alles, furchtbarer Gestank diese ganze Raucherei.” Wir dagegen sagen, das ist ein wundervoller Duft und ich erlebe die Aromen in der Luft. Die Tabak-Gegner sprechen von Geldverschwendung, die völlig unnötig ist, und die Pfeifenrauchen sprechen von Reichtum, der ihnen geschenkt wird, und von Besitzerstolz, wenn sie auf ihre Bruyère-Holz-Freundinnen schauen. Die Tabak-Gegner werfen uns dann vor: “Ihr geht doch nur einer Sucht nach.” und die Pfeifenraucher sagen — mh-mh — wir verfolgen lediglich eine Leidenschaft. Wo die Tabak-Gegner von Drogen sprechen, da reden wir von einem wundervollen Genussmittel. Und wenn dann alles nichts zieht, dann werden die scharfen Waffen und die Folterwerkzeuge vorgezeigt, dann droht man uns mit dem Krebs. Und wir sagen, ja, aber wir finden auch innere Ruhe und Ausgleich und Entspannung und Stressabbau und das tut uns gut. Ja, und dann wird uns natürlich gesagt, “der alsbaldige Tod der steht euch bevor”, und wir Pfeifenraucher wir reden von Lebensfreude und von Hingabe und das hat mit Sterben nun gar nichts zu tun. Achten Sie einfach mal darauf, wie unterschiedlich die Sprache von Tabak-Gegnern und Pfeifenrauchern ist. Ich hab nur den Eindruck, das wird nie zusammenkommen …” “What strikes me with the opponents of tobacco is the completely different language and the completely different attitude, perhaps not only towards smoking but also towards life in general, which is expressed again and again. One can form real pairs of opposites in the different views. Tobacco opponents come linguistically from a — I say quite brutally — from a culture of death. And I want to prove that. Opponents of tobacco, when they talk about tobacco or when they talk about smoking, they first of all talk about poison that we ingest. While pipe smokers talk about taste. The anti-smokers say, “It all stinks. Terrible smell, all this smoking.” We, on the other hand, say it’s a wonderful smell and I experience the aromas in the air. The tobacco opponents speak of a waste of money, which is completely unnecessary, and the pipe smokers speak of wealth, which is given to them, and of owner pride, when they look at their briarwood friends. The opponents of tobacco then accuse us: “You are merely pursuing an addiction” and the pipe smokers say — mh-mh — we are merely pursuing a passion. Where the opponents of tobacco talk about drugs, we talk about a wonderful stimulant. And when all of this doesn’t work, then the sharp weapons and the instruments of torture are shown, then we are threatened with cancer. And we say yes, but we also find inner peace and balance and relaxation and stress reduction and that does us good. Yes, and then of course we are told, “the imminent death is coming”, and we pipe smokers we talk about joy of life and about indulgence and that has nothing to do with dying. Just pay attention to how different the language of tobacco opponents and pipe smokers is. I just have the impression that they’ll never come together…”

And yeah, this does not go into the poison aspect of tobacco. And it might even seem a bit like a distraction to avoid the issue. But he is open about the health risks, and — judging by the few videos I have seen so far — does not seem to actively encourage people to start smoking.

But anyway, I find the two contrasting positions very enlightening. One thing I try to convey to the students of media and computer science is to come from a position of unconditional positive regard when doing human centered design. Yes, they have their ideas, but really listen to the target audience, what they say they want, and then find out — with your expertise in HCD, computer science, design, psychology, etc. — what they actually need.

But I admit, I never could get my head around smokers. It just seemed completely stupid. Now I am strangely interested in smoking pipe. I survived the “Lord of the Rings” hype without even the slightest inclination to smoke pipe. But that’s an interesting view. And yeah, still stupid — cognitively — but also strangely interesting. Shame that cannabis isn’t legal in this country, I guess the health risks would be lower.

In any case, a very interesting point of view.