How to Light and Relight a Tobacco Pipe

a man lighting a tobacco pipe with a match

Whether you’re smoking a cigar, cigarette or tobacco pipe, the lighting stage is essential and can have a great impact on the burn, taste and enjoyment of your smoke. Pipes are perhaps the hardest of the three to light accurately, so once you have packed your pipe with tobacco, it is important to carefully introduce a flame to it to achieve the best smoking experience.

What Should You Use to Light a Pipe?

There are a number of options when it comes to lighting method. For some, choosing the right tool to light the pipe with is one of the most important steps when preparing your pipe for smoking.



For pipe smokers, matches are one of the most commonly used tools for producing a flame. To light a pipe with a match, simply strike the match and hold the flame to the surface of the tobacco. Move the flame around the bowl slowly as you puff through the pipe, ensuring that all of the tobacco is lit and burning equally and that there are no problems with the draw.


Fluid Lighter

Smokers are most likely to have a fluid lighter, such as a Zippo, to hand, making it another common choice for lighting tobacco. While these can work well for cigarettes and cigars, fluid lighters can sometimes prove problematic for pipes, as the larger flame can cause damage to pipe bowls and the tobacco itself can also become overly toasted, leaving it with a bad taste.


Butane Lighters

While a little pricier than a standard lighter, butane lighters are far less likely to burn the pipe’s bowl or tobacco, making it a better choice for when you’re on the go. You can even get butane lighters that have been designed specifically for use with pipes, making the lighting process a lot easier and protecting both yourself and your pipe from the flame, as it is better at directing the flame to where you need it.


How to Light a Tobacco Pipe

There are three main steps to lighting your tobacco pipe:


  1. Hold your flame a little above the tobacco so that it becomes a little charred but not fully lit.


  1. Draw breath in through the pipe in a few small puffs as you move the flame around the tobacco in a circular motion, ensuring that all of it is now lit.


  1. Once the tobacco is evenly lit in the pipe, puff periodically in a steady and sharp manner to ensure that the pipe remains lit.


How to Relight a Pipe

Smoking a pipe is something of a balancing act. The pipe needs to have air flowing through it to keep the tobacco alight, yet, too much puffing and the tobacco can get too hot, causing damage to your pipe and the taste of the smoke. Finding the perfect balance that allows you to keep the pipe both lit and cool takes a lot of practice. It is better to let your pipe go out than to make it too hot, so having to relight a pipe is more than likely to occur occasionally.


Firstly, remove any ash by giving it a gentle tamp and tipping up the bowl to let any loose ash fall out. Don’t force this too much as you don’t want to lose any tobacco. Let the pipe cool for a minute or two, as this will provide the tobacco with a consistent temperature. Light the pipe again and gently blow out through the pipe to help burn away any residual ash. You should then be able to keep smoking normally, however, if the pipe continually goes out then there may be something wrong with your pipe packing method, the way you have lit the pipe or the type of tobacco you have chosen to use.


What do you use to light your pipe? Let us know in the comments below!


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