In Vietnam, it is most commonly smoked after a meal on a full stomach to “aid in digestion”, or along with green tea or local beer (most commonly the cheap “bia hơi”). A “hít” of thuốc lào is followed by a flood of nicotine to the bloodstream inducing strong dizziness that lasts several seconds. It should be said however that even heavy cigarette smokers have had trouble with the intense volume of smoke, the high nicotine content, and that side effects include nausea and vomiting.
The main difference between smoking thuoc lao and the use of other tobaccos is in the method of consumption, in that they are consumed with water pipe. The smoker is presented with either a bamboo pipe called ađiếu cày (English: “farmer’s pipe”) or a ceramichookah called a điếu bát. It may also occasionally be smoked in a more uncommon pipe known as a điếu ống. The pipe is filled with an appropriate amount of water and a small amount of thuoc lao is pressed into the bowl.
Typically, on the streets of Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi, a small bag containing enough tobacco for 5 to 8 “hít” retails at 2500Vietnamese đồng, which is equivalent to about 15 US cents. Larger packs cost up to 20000 đồng and would be about $1.25 US Dollars. The use of thuoc lao is usually out of the bamboo pipe—the điếu cày—which can range from 10000 đồng to upwards of 50000đồng for items with extravagant carvings and other designs.