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U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Pipe Tobacco

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Pipe tobacco is generally loose leaf tobacco burned in a traditional smoking pipe with a bowl. Pipe tobacco is a combustible tobacco product.

Nationwide, 1.4 percent (an estimated 190,000) of high school students currently smoke pipes. 1

FDA Regulation of Pipe Tobacco

In 2016, FDA finalized a rule extending our regulatory authority to cover all tobacco products, including pipe tobacco. FDA regulates the manufacture, import, packaging, labeling, advertising, promotion, sale, and distribution of pipe tobacco. This includes components and parts such as pipes, but excludes accessories such as lighters.

Pipe Tobacco

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“Components” or “parts” include, among other things, software or an assembly of materials intended or reasonably expected to alter or affect the tobacco product’s performance, composition, constituents, or characteristics; or to be used with or for the human consumption of a tobacco product. Accessories of deemed tobacco products are not regulated. For a full definition of components, parts, and accessories, please read Deeming Tobacco Products To Be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

Manufacturing Pipe Tobacco

If you make, modify, mix, manufacture, fabricate, assemble, process, label, repack, relabel, or import pipe tobacco, you must comply with the requirements for manufacturers.

CTP’s Office of Small Business Assistance can answer specific questions about requirements of small businesses and how to comply with the law. This office also provides online educational resources to help regulated industry understand FDA regulations and policies.

Warning Statement Requirements

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia recently issued an order vacating the health warning requirements for cigars and pipe tobacco set forth in 21 CFR §§ 1143.3 and 1143.5 and remanding the Final Deeming Rule’s warning requirements for cigars and pipe tobacco back to the Agency. See Order, Cigar Ass’n of Am. v. U.S. Food & Drug Admin., No. 1:16-cv-01460 (D.D.C. September 11, 2020). Although the requirement has been vacated, cigar and pipe tobacco firms may choose to voluntarily comply with these health warning provisions. FDA will continue to enforce the other requirements it was already enforcing for cigars and pipe tobacco under the FD&C Act and its implementing regulations, such as not selling these products to individuals under 21 years of age or marketing them as modified risk tobacco products without an FDA order.

All “covered” tobacco products, including pipe tobacco, must bear required warning statements and additional required statements on product packages and advertisements. For more information, see:

Retail Sales of Pipe Tobacco

Note: On December 20, 2019, the President signed legislation to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and raise the federal minimum age of sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21. FDA will provide additional details on this issue as they become available, and the information on this page will be updated accordingly in a timely manner.

You can find a list of retailer responsibilities for pipe tobacco in the final rule Deeming Tobacco Products To Be Subject to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. In addition, our website offers more information on regulations, guidance, and webinars for retailers.

Importing Pipe Tobacco

Tobacco products imported or offered for import into the United States must comply with all the applicable requirements under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). You can find more information on the Importing and Exporting webpage.

You can also learn more about the importation process in the FDA Regulatory Procedures Manual, Chapter 9, Import Operations and Actions.

If you have questions about importing a specific tobacco product, please contact the FDA district into which your product will be imported.

Reporting Adverse Experiences and Product Violations

If you experience an unexpected health or safety issue with a specific tobacco product, you can report your adverse experience to FDA. Knowledge about adverse experiences can help FDA identify health or safety issues beyond those normally associated with product use.

If you believe these products are being sold to minors, or you see another potential violation of the FD&C Act or FDA’s tobacco regulations, report the potential violation.

Additional Resources
  • Small Business Assistance for Tobacco Product Industry
  • Manufacturing
  • Selling Tobacco Products in Retail Stores
References

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Tobacco use among middle and high school students – United States, 2011-2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2017; 66(23):597-603.

Find facts and figures about pipe tobacco and an overview of FDA's regulation of pipe tobacco.

The Hazards of Using Pipe Tobacco

Armeen Poor, MD, is a board-certified pulmonologist and intensivist. He specializes in pulmonary health, critical care, and sleep medicine.

Smoking tobacco out of a pipe has been a worldwide practice for centuries. Historically, pipes were used in ceremonies with the practice gradually gaining mainstream popularity over the years as an accepted way to smoke tobacco. Shops sprang up that catered to pipe (and often cigar) smokers. Flavored blends sold in bulk could be sampled right on the premises in smoke rooms set up for patrons.

Pipe smoking has been dwindling in use since the 1960s but is still favored by a small percentage (approximately 2%) of smokers in the United States today, especially older men. Pipe smoking is still common in Sweden, where as many as one-quarter of adult males smoke a pipe.

Pipe Tobacco Ingredients

Pipe tobacco is loose-leaf tobacco most commonly grown in northern middle Tennessee, western Kentucky, and Virginia. It is fire-cured, which involves slowly smoking the drying tobacco leaves over a smoldering hardwood fire inside of a barn or structure.

The process can take days to weeks, and the end result is a tobacco that is low in sugar and high in nicotine. Most pipe tobacco is aromatic, having had a flavoring added to the finished product that gives it a depth and richness in taste and smell.

Pipe tobacco is addictive. An average pipe bowl contains 1–3 grams of tobacco, with the nicotine level per gram averaging 30–50 milligrams. Smokers don’t tend to inhale pipe smoke as much as cigarette smokers, but some nicotine still reaches the bloodstream after being absorbed through the lining of the mouth.

Health Impact

You might think that because most pipe smokers don’t inhale, the health risks are minimal. While there isn’t a lot of scientific data on the health effects of pipe smoking, we do know that there are risks.

Pipe smoking is associated with a number of illnesses that are common in cigar and cigarette smokers. For instance, pipe smokers face an elevated risk of cancers of the mouth, including the tongue, larynx, and throat. Smokers who inhale pipe smoke also have an elevated risk of lung, pancreatic, and bladder cancer.

Pipe smokers face an increased risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While cigarette smoking is usually the main cause of COPD, other forms of tobacco like pipe-smoking and cigars can also result in tobacco smoke inhalation and damage to delicate lung tissue.

People who smoke pipes might face an elevated risk of death from heart disease, especially those who inhale the smoke. More research needs to be done in this area.

Health Risk Comparison

You might wonder how smoking a pipe compares to other types of smoking in terms of health risks. There is data comparing pipe use to cigarette and hookah use.

Cigarettes

Researchers who have looked at health risk differences between the pipe smoking and cigarettes have concluded that they both carry essentially the same risks for early death from a number of diseases that can be linked to tobacco including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Ischaemic heart disease
  • Lung cancer
  • Stroke
  • Various other smoking-related cancers

The only appreciable difference between the two forms of tobacco use is method and frequency of use. Pipe smokers tend not to inhale (as much) as cigarette smokers, and they smoke less often during the course of a day.

Hookah

Starting with the knowledge that both hookah tobacco and pipe tobacco are hazardous to health, let’s take a look at the differences between the two.

Amount and Frequency

A hookah pipe bowl can contain 10–15 grams of tobacco, while most regular pipe bowls hold 1–3 grams of tobacco. Hookah is typically smoked at a hookah lounge or in a social setting, so hookah smokers might only smoke once every few days or once a week. Pipe smokers also smoke infrequently, but many light up a pipe once (or a few times) a day.

Nicotine Level

A hookah session can lasts 45 minutes to an hour, with smokers inhaling as much as 10mg of nicotine from the 300mg to 750mg of nicotine in the tobacco. A bowl of pipe tobacco is smaller and smokers don’t inhale as much, so getting an accurate measure of nicotine absorption is difficult. However, a 3-gram bowl of tobacco with 150mg of nicotine can deliver a small amount of nicotine into the bloodstream.

Toxins

All tobacco products contain a number of toxins that come from a variety of sources: pesticides in the field, additives, and chemical changes that occur when tobacco with additives are burned. Tar, arsenic, carbon monoxide, and polonium-210 are just a few of the chemicals that are harmful to human health in tobacco smoke.

To date, upwards of 250 poisonous chemicals and 70 carcinogenic compounds have been identified in tobacco and tobacco smoke.

Federal Regulations

In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended a rule that gives the FDA regulatory authority over all tobacco products, including pipe tobacco. The manufacture, packaging, and labeling of all tobacco products must meet FDA guidelines, as well as how products are advertised, promoted, sold and even imported.

As of Dec. 20, 2019, the legal age limit is 21 years old for purchasing cigarettes, cigars, or any other tobacco products in the U.S.  

The FDA also has authority over components used with tobacco products. In this case, that would mean the pipes used to smoke the tobacco.

Labeling Guidelines

All newly regulated tobacco products in the U.S. are required to include the following warning label on packaging: “WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.”

If the manufacturer submits a self-certification form to the FDA, along with proof that their newly regulated product is nicotine-free, then the required label will read: “This product is made from tobacco.”

Ultimately, federal regulation over tobacco products helps to protect consumers. While all tobacco products are hazardous to health, FDA guidelines are meant to ensure that manufacturers are not able to secretly manipulate tobacco recipes in ways that could cause more harm than they already do.

A Word From Verywell

It has been well documented that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke. This is true regardless of the form tobacco comes in. Smokers and non-smokers all face risks to their health when breathing in tobacco smoke. If you are a smoker who is trying to find a “healthier” alternative to cigarettes, know that the only good choice is to wean yourself off of tobacco entirely.

There are a number of ways to quit successfully. Nicotine addiction is enslaving, and quitting is difficult, but it’s possible to do the work now to quit and shed the limits addiction puts on your life. Others have done it and you can, too.

Is pipe smoking a healthier way to use tobacco than smoking cigarettes? Learn about the risks associated with pipe smoking. ]]>