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Smoking, habit of inhaling the smoke of dried tobacco or other leaves from a pipe or a cigarette. Smoking has been practiced for centuries in various communities, often using plants with hallucinogenic or other mood-altering properties. The modern habit of smoking began in America and spread to Europe in the 16th century. Mass production of cigarettes began in the 19th century.

Researchers have noted an uneqivocal association between smoking and such life-threatening diseases as lung cancer, chronic arthritis, emphysema, and diseases of the arteries and heart. Smoking appears to play a part in other forms of cancer and peptic ulcers, and is responsible for 2–2.5 million deaths each year. It is not yet clear what part of the smoke is responsible for promoting disease. Nonsmokers may be affected by environmental smoke; passive smokers are perhaps 3 times more likely to die of lung cancer than they would be otherwise. Smoking causes both physical and psychological addiction.

The health hazards resulting from the practice of smoking have generally been recognized by the public. Filter cigarettes and then low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes have gained popular acceptance. Behavioral scientists have devoted much attention to helping people stop smoking. Although many people have successfully quit, many others have had great difficulty ending the habit. Efforts to educate the public have concentrated on presenting negative images of smoking, regulating the advertising of cigarettes, limiting the public spaces in which smoking is permitted, and increasing the cost of cigarettes by taxation. Some controversy exists between those who believe smoking is an individual choice and those who believe society has the right to act on its own behalf.

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