The history of smoking pipe use is as diverse as the people who use them for ritual, religious, and spiritual reasons.


The Catholic Church has used incense as part of their ritual of purification for centuries. Hippocrates of Cos II or Hippokrates of Kos (circa 460 B.C. – circa 370 B.C.), the historic first specialist of scientific medicine, prescribed inhaling for his patients with gynecological infections. The Romans inhaled the smoke of lavender, mint and oregano. They used a simple reed or a modified marrowbone as a pipe. They also used pipes made of clay.

According to archaeologists and historians, the first pipes were found during a dig in the region of Yorkshire, United Kingdom. The second pipes that were found were very small and called “elfin pipes.” But, these “finds” were excavated in the 17th century. The story of the ritual, religious, and spiritual use of the pipe has been traced to before the 15th century A.D.!

In the New World, the Aztecs, Mayans, Toltec, and other Native American cultures used smoking pipes for health purposes as well as to celebrate religious and business events. Other cultures used herbs during ceremonies as well, including Chinese and some African tribes that used tubes to sniff or inhale various types of herbs. However, historians say that the first culture to use tobacco with a pipe-like device for smoking was the Mayans of Mexico and Central America.

Explorers coming to the New World found natives smoking pipes upon arrival. In 1519, the Spanish explorer, Cortez reported finding tribes in Mexico smoking from “perfumed reeds.” The French explorer, Jacques Cartier, said that native Canadians in the Northwest using pipe smoking for ritual ceremonies. In 1559, Spain imported the first tobacco from the New World. They used tobacco as a medicinal herb and thought that the smoke was good for the lungs when smoked.

Jean Nicot, the French ambassador to Portugal, used tobacco in a powdered form for health reasons like migraines, minor aches, and pains. During this period, men of the lower classes began to use tobacco in clay pipes for pleasure; however, it was Sir Walter Raleigh who introduced pipe smoking to the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1590. Raleigh had learned about the pleasurable use of pipe smoking from Ralph Lane, the first Governor of Virginia. Raleigh helped spread the use of pipe smoking among the fashionable British aristocracy. England began the production of pipes.

By 1602, pipe smoking had spread all over Europe, India, China and Japan.

But perhaps one of the most interesting cutlures in the history of smoking is within the Native American people. A peace pipe is also commonly called a calumet. It is a ceremonial smoking pipe used by many Native American peoples. According to tradition, the pipe is a token of peace. The bowl of the pipe is usually made from red pipestone. It has been commonly found in South Dakota. Warring tribes made this their neutral ground. Many holy religious ceremonies are done in this neutral area. A special blend of herbs or tobacco is usually used. Each regional area uses plants that have special qualities or have been cleared for special use by the various tribes.


The history of smoking reveals many nuances to native cultures.


Unbeknownst to most, the European term “peace pipe” refers to only one type of pipe and one way it was used. Ceremonial pipes were used by the Lakota Sioux in the New World as a means of sending prayers or wishes. The construction of the pipe and the smoking mixture is symbolic. It forms a bridge believed quite important for contacting the spirit world that assists with fate or the end of problem. The pipe stem symbolizes the male in the world as well as nature. This is why a piece of fur was often wrapped around the bowl of the pipe. The female in the world and plant kingdom is represented by the bowl. The entire pipe (bowl and stem) is the genesis of the World.

The burning tobacco in the pipe allows prayers to come to the attention of the forces of the Higher Power. Traditionally, pipes have been adorned with feathers, fur, animal hair, bird wings, plants, beadwork, quills, carvings and other items of personal significance to the owner.

Peace pipes come in many sizes: palm sized, short, round, and horn shaped. They have carefully carved into animal or human configurations. There are short and long pipes. The two foot long pipes are actually feathered reeds ending in an upright rather than a round bowl. There are many individual uses of the pipe; therefore, there is no one way that cultures conduct their rituals.

Lakota tradition explains that White Buffalo Calf Woman is the aboriginal source of the pipe. It instructs the Lakota people to keep the stem upward during rites and rituals. Thus is constructed the holy bond between this and Wakan Tanka, the creator’s world. If this doesn’t signify the importance of the history of smoking, we don’t know what does.

There are personal family pipes. The Sacred Pipes are not just ordinary pipes. Rather, a real Sacred Pipe is a variety of objects. They are used in coordination with ceremonial songs, dances, prayers, and even silence. These pipes change all the time. To learn more about the Sacred Pipe, click here. 

A milder form of tobacco used in commercial tobacco was widely used by the North American native tribes. It was (and is) considered by these tribes to be a sacred plant. Often it was cultivated separately from other plants. There were a great number of ceremonies using specific rituals for sowing and harvesting. Many times it has been burnt over a fire, thrown on water, or left on the ground. It was also smoked in a pipe that was passed around a circle of people. Individual people also smoked it in individual pipes.

In South and Central America, where other forms of tobacco was cultivated, pipes of many sizes and shapes were used.


The importance of smoking in Europe circac 1600 leads to violence and regulation.


The anti-smoking offensive by King James of England began in 1603. This campaign led ultimately to the execution of Sir Walter Raleigh in 1618. It is said that Sir Walter Raleigh’s last act was to smoke a full pipe of tobacco. King James later relented in his anti-smoking tactics. He signed a charter incorporating all British pipe makers, but with complicated laws and rules. Instead of hindering the pipe makers, this action allowed the profession to flourish. Other countries had begun to ban pipes, smoking, and tobacco but later changed their minds as well.

The fine art of smoking a pipe was soon accepted all over the world. In 1794, Pope Benedict issued an edict exonerating the users of tobacco from any sin. Snuff became the rage in Europe while pipes and pipe smoking grew in the New World.

During the Victorian era, pipe smoking became associated with relaxing contemplation beside a fireplace. Cigars came to be considered a great social pastime. Pipes became a more personal and individualistic endeavor.

Today, pipe smoking is gaining in credibility while cigar smoking diminishes. Vaporizers and new technology are flooding the market and providing new avenues for people to enjoy tobaccos and herbs without the same health damage that burning plants can cause.

While the late 1970’s and 1980’s are referred to as the Golden Age of Pipes, Smokers are turning more and more to finding their relaxation and pleasure from pipes once again. Variety of size, shapes and materials are being used and appeal to the modern day tobacco smoker’s taste.

 You can help write the history of smoking pipes with your own new piece.


Buying a smoking pipe is an important decision for the regular smoker. Smoking from aluminum foil or a can is potentially harmful due to the chemicals that are released when aluminum is heated and making a new pipe every time you smoke can be inconvenient and even costly. Purchasing a nice functional new smoking pipe is a good investment when one considers how much they spend on tobacco. When considering a new smoking pipe the first thing to think about is how one will be using the piece. Some important questions one should ask themselves, “ is where is this pipe to be used at home or on the go”. If one is going to carry the pipe around then it should be sturdy, small convenient and discreet.

One widely used portable smoking device is a dugout. A dugout is a wooden box with two chambers, one chamber is used to hold your tobacco the other chamber carries a metal bat. A Bat is a metal smoking pipe usually disguised as a cigarette, this is to help the smoker to avoid unwanted attention. The dugout is easy to use one simply pushes and twist the metal bat in the tobacco chamber and it is loaded. When one is finished smoking they simply put the bat back in its chamber and close the lid and their ready to go.

The most common portable smoking device is the smoking pipe. There are many types of pipes and each have their pros and cons. The best pipe is always glass because glass has no flavor and releases no chemicals when heated. Glass has a couple draw backs the biggest being that it is breakable. Many pipes are made much thicker to make them less breakable, they are called inside out pipes . Inside out pipes are usually about a centimeter thick and feature 3d details inside the glass. Inside out pipes are as hard as marble and will almost never break on a wooden floor. Other pipes for carrying are wood and metal smoking pipes. Most of these are cheaper and should feature a lid to hold the tobacco in. Te lids for these usually have a hole on top so that they can be lit when closed and also so they will quickly snuff out when finished. Wooden and metal smoking pipes utilize a wire mesh screen to keep your tobacco from going into ones mouth. Wood and metal pipes have an unpleasant flavor to ones tobacco when smoked but this does not bother everybody. If you’re buying a wood or metal pipe make sure to replace your screen regularly or the pipe can become clogged and un smokable.

Ever notice how your glass piece can become dirty over time? Smoking leaves a residue in a pipe that can render a piece unattractive, can ruin the flavor of your tobacco, and can clog the pipe itself making it difficult if not impossible to use. This article is meant to be a guide to cleaning your glass piece and should lead you on a path to better smoking.

A connoisseur keeps a clean pipe because the tobacco’s flavor is ruined if the pipe becomes to dirty. There are many methods for cleaning glass pipes. Some are good, some are expensive and some can do more harm than good. One way that works well is buying a special made pipe cleaning agent. These work well but they cost money and are one more thing you might have to hide. A lot of people suggest you soak your glass in rubbing alcohol overnight, this is a bad idea. Many people also suggest boiling also ill advised. Many hand blown glass pieces have fuming. Fuming is the color on the inside surface of the glass. Sometimes the fuming creates the color changing effect; gold is often used for fuming as well. The fuming can come off with excessive washing so you should be careful. Another bad idea is to go poking around in your glass pipe with a hard object which can damage the glass. For instance the hole in the bowl piece has much thinner glass than the rest of the pipe so it can break easily.

The best solution I have found is to soak the glass piece in a bowl filled with hot water. You do not have to leave it long the residue should dissolve or at least loosen. At this point use either pipe cleaners or rock salt to loosen the debris inside. If you use rock or kosher salt just put the salt inside the pipe and shake it around this should clean the pipe out well. Pipe cleaners can easily be found online they are pliable and can be made into many shapes which make them perfect for cleaning the inside of your glass smoking pipe. The easiest way to clean just the bowl is by heating it up and then rubbing it with a paper towel. This should clean the bowl piece nicely in most cases this alone is enough the give you glass piece a smooth hit. A clean glass pipe is a happy glass pipe!