At the wedding on Saturday, I stepped outside a number of times to smoke my pipe - much to the amusement of some of the young Spaniards there. They asked me if smoking a pipe was less hazardous to your health, whether pipe smoking was common in Britain and whether I put cannabis in my pipe. The answer to all three questions was NO.
1. Pipe smokers do not inhale the smoke like cigarette smokers do so there is a lower risk of lung cancer but that does not reduce the risk of contracting other forms of cancer.
2. Pipe smoking used to be popular in Britain up to the 50s and 60s but has been on the decline for a number of years.
I first took to the pipe in the late sixties when I was a student and then gave it back up for the convenience of cigarettes when I was a young teacher. In 1975 I bought my first new car and at that time returned to the pipe for economic reasons. I’ve stuck to the pipe ever since.
I first smoked Clan with its heavily perfumed Cavendish tobacco. I then dabbled with Balkan Sobranie, Three Nuns, Erinmore and Condor. Finally I returned to latakia tobacco and smoked Presbyterian mixture followed by Dunhill My Mixture 365 for many years.
Whilst we lived in Greasby, I would go into my local shop and ask for “My Mixture” at which point the owner would tell me it was “His Mixture” until I paid for it, then he would polish the tin because it was the most expensive tobacco in the shop.
In Spain, pipe smoking is even less common than it is in Britain but I managed to find a shop in Torrevieja that sold Saint Bruno and have stuck with that ever since. The local shop in Bigastro now orders supplies in for me. I get through about two 50gm packets a week, seldom more and often less.
3. Somehow I managed to avoid smoking cannabis in the 60s. Whilst many were experimenting with weed and other substances, I was content with a pint of best bitter and my pipe of tobacco. After seeing the harm that drugs and alcohol abuse have done to many, including my own brother, I am pleased to say that I was never tempted to dabble in drugs and have managed to moderate my consumption of alcohol.
I read in the papers today that Britain has been earmarked as the leader in Europe for the use of “legal highs”. These are drugs that were never intended for human consumption but which young people have found give them a similar sensation to illegal drugs. There is also widespread concern about the levels of alcohol abuse in Britain, the so called binge drinking and the number of people who are taking drug-substitute prescriptions such as methadone over a long period.
The report in the Telegraph says that the rate of alcohol dependence among British men was second in western Europe and that alcohol dependence among women was higher in Britain than anywhere in Europe.
You can apportion the blame for all this to the economic situation, to the cheap booze offers in shops or whatever – the end result is the same – a country facing a growing problem that nobody seems able to tackle.