Communal Tobaccos: An Uncommon Workplace Problem

Communal Tobacco at

We usually think of pipe smoking as a solitary endeavour. Not lonely necessarily; though the number of pipe smokers around these days has definitely decreased since the 40's and 50's, the internet has largely plugged the gap and allowed existing pipe smokers to connect with one another, but aside from pipe clubs, conventions or other, informal gatherings of pipe smokers, the actual day-to-day business of smoking a pipe is usually one we engage in by ourselves. Add to that how incredibly subjective and personal tastes in tobacco can be, and the idea of communal tobaccos becomes largely alien. Yet, this is the problem I now have before me.

Some Background

It's been mentioned before so I won't spend too long bellyaching about it, but when I made the move from Australia to the US I shed, along with the general clutter one accumulates from a youth spent in share houses and an adulthood spent collecting shiny objects to line one's nest, fifteen years worth of furnishings, collectibles, and, of course, my tobacco cellar.

The upside to all this of course is that I get to rebuild my cellar, and do so armed with what I now know about my likes and dislikes, a working knowledge of what cellars well, and do it in a country that doesn't charge (currently at least) 80% tax on my beloved pipe weed. The downside, other than losing all of that precious tobacco, is the choice.

The Paradox Of Choice

Communal Tobacco at Smokingpipes.comWith so much damnable choice, where does one even begin? With my absolute favourites is the obvious solution, but with most of these currently filling neat rows of mason jars on my desk, where do I go next? My experience has taught me that, with some notable exceptions, Aromatics and heavy English blends aren't really my thing — my tastes tend to favour Virginias, Burley, Perique, blends of these three, and Oriental forward mixtures — but this doesn't narrow it down a lot.

The other advantage I have in deciding what my new cellar will comprise of is possibly also my greatest problem — I work in an office full of pipe smokers, all of whom have fairly robust cellars of their own. The unopened tins of these cellars are often kept at home (supposedly in closets, but I like to imagine Shane keeps his trove under his bed so that he can sleep on it, Smaug style) but the opened tins usually find their way back to the office, where they sit on desks, in drawers, and in a few examples in full on display cases. These tobaccos, with ages ranging from months to decades, are offered freely and often, and generally unsolicited.

"Oh, you like Honor Blend? I have a four year old tin you can smoke."

And therein lies the problem, as not only do I have to contend with an overwhelming abundance of choice, but now I have to consult with my coworkers to make sure I'm not buying a tin of tobacco that they have twenty of, neatly stacked and squirreled away in the trunk of some acorn tree, or wherever it is they cellar their tobaccos. What kind of way is this for the noble pipe smoker to behave? The very image of solitary contemplation, now forced to consult with others about their tobacco purchases.

Just last week I had a craving for Capstan Blue and was about to purchase a tin when Andy, ever helpful, piped in with "I have Capstan right here man, do you want some?" Well yes, I did, but I also wanted to know I had Capstan later. Being the absolute model of civility and manners, I accepted Andy's offer and instead picked up some Full Virginia Flake, knowing that both I liked Full Virginia Flake and that Andy did not have Full Virginia Flake. But now I have another problem...

What if I want some Capstan when I'm at home?


    • Tony on February 16, 2015
    • I'm supposed to be working but instead I'm reading about your super-abundant tobacco problems!! This is not good in so many ways! Like you did previously, I live in a country (Canada) which sees fit to tax pipe tobacco to a level where not only do you look like an aristocrat when you smoke your pipe, you actually have to be one to afford the damned stuff. A stinkin' 50 gram tin that costs about 9 or 10 bucks at ends up being about $36 after tax here in Canada (that's duty and then sales tax on top of duty). So I have to be careful and clever when I make purchases. Sometimes orders from the US manage to slip past the ever watchful customs agents unnoticed, but other times I get hit with an additional bill upon delivery (even then it seems to be less expensive than buying here for some mysterious reason). I like to fantasize that the ones that get through are actually ones that passed across the desk of the one pipe smoker at Canada Customs who is sympathetic to my plight. I call him Kevin and I raise a glass to him whenever I come home to find a small box at the doorstep with no duty bill attached to it. Anyway, I think I appreciate what you're going through but I appeal to you to think of your Commonwealth comrades as you bemoan the difficulty of choosing when you're knee-deep in cheap tobacco. All the best, Tony

    • Steve on February 16, 2015
    • Interesting commentary, and an even more interesting dilemma! I have been a pipe smoker for a long time. I spent a lot of time trying different tobaccos, and now have two regulars I am very fond of. One aromatic and one English, and rarely try others. I suppose I am just not very adventurous.

    • Adam O'Neill on February 16, 2015
    • Hi Tony, I'm always sympathetic to my pipe smoking brethren in the Commonwealth, believe me, I was one of them for long enough. In fact I'll dedicate my next bowl to Kevin - may he always clear your parcels with no duty.

    • Adam O'Neill on February 16, 2015
    • Steve, There's nothing wrong with knowing what you like my friend.

    • bugsjr on February 16, 2015
    • Such a wonderful problem to have, but here in Hawaii not only do we have to contend with a ridiculous tobacco tax we also have to deal with absorbent shipping fees as 90% of all consumer goods come by way of ship. To put it in money terms a 100g tin of Frog Morton cost $14 bucks on this site, at the one and only tobacco shop (they have 2 stores but it's really only one) they charge $38 usd. So Tony, I feel for you brother. As for you Mr. O'Neil I would really like to feel sorry for you and bemoan your problem, but alas your tears of sorrow will only fall on deaf ears! Lol I'm just kidding! I'm actually very jealous of you and would like to swap situations with you. How about it? Sunny Hawaii? For endless amounts of great 'baccy? Maybe I should clear this with my wife first.

    • A.M. LaVey on February 16, 2015
    • #workproblems So I send my CV to whom..?

    • Adrian Wolff on February 16, 2015
    • G'day Adam, what a dilemma indeed! However it doesn't look like you are going to get much sympathy from anyone. LOL :) I can relate to the complaints regarding the ridiculous most recent Smokingpipes order is currently in the hands of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. The current import duty and tax is $578.37 per kilogram (Aussie Dollars). But I must not complain, because just like Tony it appears that here in The Land Downunder we too have a Kevin or several of them working for customs who 9 times out of 10 let my Smokingpipes order slide on by unnoticed saving me a lot of money. Pour a glass for Kevin! And all the best to you Adam. Regards........Adrian (Perth-West Oz)

    • Adam O'Neill on February 17, 2015
    • Hey @Bugsjr, I may have to run it past mine as well. She's still a couple of weeks away from making it to SC let alone packing up and moving to Hawaii already.

    • Adam O'Neill on February 17, 2015
    • @A.M. LaVey, Hey, we're always posting new jobs, feel free.

    • Adam O'Neill on February 17, 2015
    • @Adrian Wolff, I know the feeling well mate, I'll smoke another bowl in honour of Kevin (or just Kev to us Aussies).

    • Adriene on February 17, 2015
    • It's a nice problem to have. I have the same problem at work. The solution: accept the offer, buy something you both like and buy what you originally wanted so you have it either at home or to share next time.

    • Adam O'Neill on February 17, 2015
    • Hey @Adriene, I have, in fact, found some two year old tins of Capstan since writing this, so there's definitely some wisdom in that - now I have Capstan and FVF ;)

    • Steve on February 17, 2015
    • Thanks Adam!

    • Chrisheets on March 13, 2015
    • Adam, I read your blog, and there might be a solution coming your way, I built what I call a cellaring Cabinet, and it should arrive today but more likely tomorrow to It is designed to hold 24 8oz ball canning jars so when you guys open a tin, and you would like to share the tobacco with fellow employees, just put the tobacco in one of the canning jars, label it, then put it into the Cabinet, which I am hoping Joshua (who has been my contact) puts in a central location there in your offices.

    • alex on July 27, 2015
    • On the subject of Customs Duties try New Zealand $867 a kilo. I purchased (arrived today) SP superb selection valued at $50 US and paid $570NZ. And it is worth every cent. 6/11 shipments miss their watchful eyes. Pipe tobacco and cigars make up 1% of all tobacco consumption in NZ! SP and the fair prices allow my one bad habit to grow into an art form. Just cracked a Seattle Pipe Club tin, a slow, lovely gentle smoke. Thanks SP for your speedy deliveries, expert packaging and personal signatures on ever box, I am like a child opening a Xmas present every time...

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