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Smoking is a practice in which a substance, most commonly tobacco, is burned and the smoke is tasted or inhaled. This is primarily practiced as a route of administration for recreational drug use, as combustion releases the active substances in drugs such as nicotine and makes them available for absorption through the lungs. It can also be done as a part of rituals, to induce trances and spiritual enlightenment.
The most common method of smoking today is through cigarettes, primarily industrially manufactured but also hand-rolled from loose tobacco and rolling paper. Other smoking implements include pipes, cigars, bidis, hookahs, vaporizers, and bongs. It has been suggested that smoking-related disease kills one half of all long term smokers but these diseases may also be contracted by non-smokers. A 2007 report states that about 4.9 million people worldwide each year die as a result of smoking.
Smoking is one of the most common forms of recreational drug use. Tobacco smoking is today by far the most popular form of smoking and is practiced by over one billion people in the majority of all human societies. Less common drugs for smoking include cannabis and opium. Some of the substances are classified as hard narcotics, like heroin, but the use of these is very limited as they are often not commercially available.
Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death globally. In the United States about 500,000 deaths per year are attributed to smoking-related diseases and a recent study estimated that as much as 1/3 of China’s male population will have significantly shortened life-spans due to smoking. Male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life, respectively. At least half of all lifelong smokers die earlier as a result of smoking. The risk of dying from lung cancer before age 85 is 22.1% for a male smoker and 11.9% for a female current smoker, in the absence of competing causes of death. The corresponding estimates for lifelong nonsmokers are a 1.1% probability of dying from lung cancer before age 85 for a man of European descent, and a 0.8% probability for a woman. Smoking one cigarette a day results in a risk of heart disease that is halfway between that of a smoker and a non-smoker. The non-linear dose response relationship is explained by smoking’s effect on platelet aggregation.
The effects of addiction on society vary considerably between different substances that can be smoked and the indirect social problems that they cause, in great part because of the differences in legislation and the enforcement of narcotics legislation around the world. Though nicotine is a highly addictive drug, its effects on cognition are not as intense or noticeable as other drugs such as, cocaine, amphetamines or any of the opiates (including heroin and morphine).
Smoking is a risk factor in Alzheimer’s disease. While smoking more than 15 cigarettes per day has been shown to worsen the symptoms of Crohn’s disease, smoking has been shown to actually lower the prevalence of ulcerative colitis.