Smoking is a practice in which a substance, most commonly tobacco or cannabis, is burned and the smoke is tasted or inhaled. This is primarily practised 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.
When your parents were young, people could buy cigarettes and smoke pretty much anywhere — even in hospitals! Ads for cigarettes were all over the place. Today we're more aware about how bad smoking is for our health. Smoking is restricted or banned in almost all public places and cigarette companies are no longer allowed to advertise on TV, radio, and in many magazines.
Almost everyone knows that smoking causes cancer, emphysema, and heart disease; that it can shorten your life by 10 years or more; and that the habit can cost a smoker thousands of dollars a year. So how come people are still lighting up? The answer, in a word, is addiction. Once You Start, It's Hard to Stop
Smoking is a hard habit to break because tobacco contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Like heroin or other addictive drugs, the body and mind quickly become so used to the nicotine in cigarettes that a person needs to have it just to feel normal.
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People start smoking for a variety of different reasons. Some think it looks cool. Others start because their family members or friends smoke. Statistics show that about 9 out of 10 tobacco users start before they're 18 years old. Most adults who started smoking in their teens never expected to become addicted. That's why people say it's just so much easier to not start smoking at all.
How Smoking Affects Your Health
There are no physical reasons to start smoking. The body doesn't need tobacco the way it needs food, water, sleep, and exercise. And many of the chemicals in cigarettes, like nicotine and cyanide, are actually poisons that can kill in high enough doses.
The body is smart. It goes on the defense when it's being poisoned. First-time smokers often feel pain or burning in the throat and lungs, and some people feel sick or even throw up the first few times they try tobacco.
The consequences of this poisoning happen gradually. Over the long term, smoking leads people to develop health problems like heart disease, stroke, emphysema (breakdown of lung tissue), and many types of cancer — including lung, throat, stomach, and bladder cancer. People who smoke also have an increased risk of infections like bronchitis and pneumonia.
These diseases limit a person's ability to be normally active, and they can be fatal. In the United States, smoking is responsible for about 1 out of 5 deaths.
Smokers not only develop wrinkles and yellow teeth, they also lose bone density, which increases their risk of osteoporosis (pronounced: ahs-tee-o-puh-row-sus), a condition that causes older people to become bent over and their bones to break more easily. Smokers also tend to be less active than nonsmokers because smoking affects lung power.
Smoking can also cause fertility problems and can impact sexual health in both men and women. Girls who are on the pill or other hormone-based methods of birth control (like the patch or the ring) increase their risk of serious health problems, such as heart attacks, if they smoke.
The consequences of smoking may seem very far off, but long-term health problems aren't the only hazard of smoking. Nicotine and the other toxins in cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can affect a person's body quickly, which means that teen smokers experience many of these problems:
Bad skin. Because smoking restricts blood vessels, it can prevent oxygen and nutrients from getting to the skin — which is why smokers often appear pale and unhealthy. Studies have also linked smoking to an increased risk of getting a type of skin rash called psoriasis. Bad breath. Cigarettes leave smokers with a condition called halitosis, or persistent bad breath. Bad-smelling clothes and hair. The smell of stale smoke tends to linger — not just on people's clothing, but on their hair, furniture, and cars. And it's often hard to get the smell of smoke out. Reduced athletic performance. People who smoke usually can't compete with nonsmoking peers because the physical effects of smoking (like rapid heartbeat, decreased circulation, and shortness of breath) impair sports performance. Greater risk of injury and slower healing time. Smoking affects the body's ability to produce collagen, so common sports injuries, such as damage to tendons and ligaments, will heal more slowly in smokers than nonsmokers. Increased risk of illness. Studies show that smokers get more colds, flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia than nonsmokers. And people with certain health conditions, like asthma, become more sick if they smoke (and often if they're just around people who smoke). Because teens who smoke as a way to manage weight often light up instead of eating, their bodies also lack the nutrients they need to grow, develop, and fight off illness properly.
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