As some of you know I have a soft spot in my latakia-black heart for German tobacco manufacturer DTM and their selling company Dan Pipe. I visited the factory and antique shop many times over the years. Whenever owner Heiko Behrens was available he would give me a tour through the building, I would chat with (former) masterblender Andreas Mund and hang out in the store with walking pipe/tobacco encyclopedia Michael Apitz. I also always went directly to their stand at the Inter Tabac Fair for a cup of coffee, smoke and some small talk. So you can imagine my horror when I recently read this on the Dan Pipe website:
Dan Pipe says goodbye!
Dear customers and friends of Dan Pipe Dr. Behrens KG, In the 51st year of our company, significant changes are coming our way. Starting from May 30, 2023, we will cease our shipping operations. We will, of course, fulfil orders placed until that day, as long as the requested items are available in the short term. In the future, you will be redirected from our online shop to the website www.cigarre24.de, if the respective item is available there. Cigarre24.de is the online shop of the long-established tobacco specialist Oliver Fries from the neighbouring city of Geesthacht, who has been running a well-assorted speciality store there for many years in a prime location on the pedestrian zone. We have had a longstanding business relationship with Mr. Fries and hold him in high regard. Most of the items from our online shop will be available for ordering there, and you will also be able to purchase many items directly from the retail store “Zigarren Fries” at Bergedorfer Str. 46, 21502 Geesthacht.
Many of our customers are familiar with our particularly cozy retail store at Hafenstraße 30, 21481 Lauenburg and have enjoyed browsing through our incredibly extensive range of pipes in the past. However, the retail store will close its doors in the future, so please take advantage of the time until July 31, 2023, to benefit from the excellent advice provided by Mr. Michael Apitz. You can still view your previous online orders in your customer area on the Dan Pipe website. However, ordering through Dan Pipe is no longer possible. You will find links on many of our product pages with the destination www.cigarre24.de. Please note that you will need to register as a new customer there, as we will naturally not disclose our customer data.
We would be delighted if you continued to remain loyal to the products of DTM – Dan Tobacco Manufacturing GmbH and placed your trust in Mr. Oliver Fries and his team in the future. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all our customers and business partners. Thank you very much for the trust, praise, and recognition we have received over the years. We wish the “Zigarren Fries” team all the best, much success, and hope that you, dear customers, will become as good and longstanding partners to the “Zigarren Fries” team with their online shop www.cigarre24.de as you have been to us.
The entire team of Dan Pipe Dr. Behrens KG
R.I.P. Heiko Behrens
On top of that, just a day later, I saw the news that good old Heiko passed away. With him, the industry has lost a pipe specialist, tobacco expert, employer, entrepreneur who stood up for his industry, musician, culture enthusiast, philanthropist, family man and husband. Personally I loved Heiko. He was such a sweet and generous guy. When I first came to Dan Pipe together with good friend Ed for the creation of the forum tobaccos and met him, I called him “sir”. I was raised well and he was a big name in the industry. He immediately countered with “Please call me Heiko, everyone does.”, and took us out for lunch on his expense. That time and every time after when we walked through the factory, he asked if I knew a blend that was lying around there. If I said “no” he would give it to me. And books and even more tobacco. The last time I saw him, just before covid hit, he already was very fragile. So his death did not fully surprise me.
One last visit
When I read all this I immediately decided to pay one last visit to the Dan Pipe shop, the least I could do. I booked a hotel-room in Lauenburg (it is too far away for me to go back and forth in 1 day) and went on my way. After a pleasant ride without Stau (traffic jams) I arrived at the old former grain malting house of DTM. Built of red brick into the steep slope of the Elbe river banks more than 100 years ago with a construction solid like an ancient castle. In the shop Michael Apitz was not back yet, it was around lunchtime. I chatted with another employee when I felt some hands on my shoulders: Der Michael! First of all, I offered my condolences on the loss of Heiko. “You know, I am not religious, but the death of Heiko and the news of the impending closure of the store are very coincidental.” Michael said.
Track & Trace
Being a curious man I asked why the brick and mortar store and webshop were going to be closed. “First of all this plan has been known to us for half a year. It is only now that we decided to bring out the news. The reason? (Anti) tobacco legislation; track & trace and other upcoming regulations.” Michael sighed. “Sorry? Track & trace, like in, what’s on packages?” I asked. “Nono, track & trace on tobacco itself.” Back home I did some research on the subject: Tobacco tracking and tracing involves the identification of the origin and subsequent monitoring of a tobacco product until it is sold. Each product is assigned a secure and distinct ID, enabling its traceability from the manufacturing stage to the point of tax payment. In the event that these products find their way into the illicit market, their path can be retraced to determine the source of the issue and their original place of manufacture. And this not national legislation, it is European Union legislation! To understand this for the Americans who read this, kind of see Europe as the USA and the countries as states.
Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)
So sooner or later every EU country will have to deal with this. And not only with track & trace, with all kinds of anti-tobacco regulations! Also with the prohibition of internet sales of tobacco and related products. In Germany it isn’t that far YET, but here in The Netherlands it is (we always try to be the best boy in the EU class). If I for example I want to buy some pipe tobacco, I can’t do it online any more. I have to drive to a tobacco shop and buy it there. Last years many of those specialist shops closed down due to all the strict regulations. In other words, if I want to buy some (heavily taxed) pipe tobacco I have to drive 32 km to get to the nearest shop. And this because of TPD. The Tobacco Products Directive (2014/40/EU) was implemented on May 19, 2014, and became effective in European Union countries on May 20, 2016. This Directive establishes regulations concerning the production, packaging, and sale of tobacco and associated items. Such items encompass cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco, pipe tobacco, cigars, cigarillos, smokeless tobacco, electronic cigarettes, and herbal products intended for smoking.
But it goes even further. Now the EU has a goal to have a “Tobacco-free Generation” by 2040. Which is set in Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. A noble plan in itself, but they say tobacco is known as “the single largest avoidable health risk in the EU”, with 27% of all cancers attributed to its use. And they are also coming for your alcohol, see point 3.3., “Reducing harmful alcohol consumption”. Beware! To make matters even worse (It can’t be worse! Yes it can..), there are a whole lot of nutcases who want to achieve a tobacco-free environment and the first European tobacco-free generation, not by 2040, but by 2030. A so called “European Citizens’ Initiative”. Well, if you look on their website you see about every European anti-smoke organisation there is. What annoys me the most is that pipe tobacco and cigars on the one side and cigarettes and roll-your-own on the other side, are measured by the same standards. More or less. In Germany they have made a clear distinction. Pipe tobacco tins look reasonably normal, the tax isn’t enormous. Here everything is lumped together. I would love to show you how a Dutch pipe tobacco tin looks like nowadays, but due to the new legislation tobacco shops are not allowed to show pictures of products. Also we aren’t allowed to smoke indoors anywhere, except for your own home. No smoking lounges, no cigar bars, nothing. So it doesn’t matter if I only smoke 1 or 2 pipes/cigars per week to de-stress, not inhaling the smoke. It’s tobacco! Bad!
You can imagine the extra costs and work this all brings for pipe tobacco manufacturers. All packaging has to be updated, loads of extra administration etc. For bigger corporations like MacBaren and the Scandinavian Tobacco Group it is pretty annoying, but they will survive. Smaller companies like Dan Pipe are struggling. So they have to make ugly but necessary business decisions to survive. Like closing the brick and mortar store and webshop. Don’t worry, the factory will still be making tobacco. But poor Michael has been cut down to only 1 day work per week. He’s taking it like a man, but deep inside.. After an afternoon of chatting, trying out some blends and buying a whole lot of stuff it was time to leave. Michael and I did not shake hands, but hugged each other, knowing an era has almost ended. When saying goodbye we both got misty-eyed. I thank Dan Pipe / DTM very, very much for all the years I visited their shop, factory and Inter Tabac Fair stand. I wish them all the best in the future, I hope they will survive. And if you, dear reader, want to make a last visit to the shop, hurry up!