Samuel Johnson once said of smoking that it is “a thing which requires so little exertion, and yet preserves the mind from total vacuity…. Every man has something by which he calms himself: beating with his feet, or so.”
There are times when only tobacco will do. I am aware of the many advantages of drinking in moderation. Beer and wine have numerous physical health benefits. Yet I would argue that in small amounts, tobacco offers mental and social benefits that alcohol lacks. For example, I’ve never heard of anyone getting into a car wreck or having a fight after smoking a cigarette. Drink is a mood enhancer. That is fine if you are in a good mood. But as Johnson elsewhere stated: “Melancholy, indeed, should be diverted by every means but drinking.” By contrast, smoking is always relaxing, and always dependable, whatever the mood.
Alcohol usually requires some other activity to supplement it, such as eating, conversation or entertainment. It doesn’t go very well with reading, especially if it’s intellectually demanding. Drinking is not a great solitary pastime. Tobacco, on the other hand, is ideal for quiet moments alone. It also lends itself to social occasions, assuming that others are smoking too.
Apart form the infrequent cigar, or cigarette with drinks, I hadn’t smoked a pipe in four years. Not being a heavy smoker I contented myself with the purchase of an inexpensive corncob and a small pouch of tobacco. I find it an excellent way to sooth the nerves on the weekend. I can sit the backyard with the younger children without getting fidgety or having recourse to electronic devices. I can pay attention to them and tend my pipe. I look forward to those meditative moments amid the the clouds of aromatic pipe smoke. (As an aside, I’d note that smoking is as much a pleasure of sight as it is of taste.)
For more on tobacco, see my earlier post.