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Characteristics of pipe smokers in the USA

Mike Garr | Published on 9/18/2019

     Reading the article on “Women and the Pipe World” in the last (sadly) issue of Pipes and
Tobacco Magazine, I was struck by how little we know about the characteristics of pipe
smokers in the United States. I knew that there is statistical information on pipe smokers that is
collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Collected yearly since 1997,
The Survey on Drug Use and Health is a large survey done yearly containing a randomly selected
sample of approximately 50,000 respondents.

     The survey asks two questions regarding pipe smoking: “Ever smoked pipe tobacco?”
and “Have you smoked pipe tobacco in the past 30 days?” The “ever smoked” question is rather
useless to find current characteristics. So, this leaves us with smoking pipe tobacco in the past
30 days. Note, the question does not specify pipe smoking. It is possible that pipe tobacco is
being used in roll-your-own cigarettes or some other medium. Also, past 30 days may also
suggest that use was experimental. It does not mean that the respondents continue to smoke a
pipe. A third question about past year pipe tobacco use would have been useful because the
past month and past year could have been combined to weed out the experimental user.

    Nevertheless, the past 30 days question is the best we have. The first part of the
analysis presented here uses this question to ascertain the characteristics of pipe smokers. Part
2 examines the percentage of past month pipe relative to the rest of the population. A third
part of the analysis attempts to ascertain what characteristics distinguish pipe smokers from
non-pipe smokers. These three parts use data, except where specified, from the 2017 survey.
The last part examines a few trends from a different data set that combines the years 2002 to

     The adult population of the United States is close to 250 million people. According to
the 2017 survey 0.9% of the adult population smoked a pipe in the past 30 days. As a result, an
estimated 2,254,856 adults tried a pipe (or at least smoked pipe tobacco in some form) in the
last month.

     So, with these caveats, I present you results regarding the characteristics of pipe
smokers in the United States.

See the full survey results