Tobacco smoking is the practice of drawing tobacco smoke into the mouth. In the case of cigarette smoking, it also involves the inhaling of tobacco smoke. Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, which is highly addictive when inhaled. Nicotine is one of thousands of chemicals contained in cigarette smoke. The most widespread form of tobacco smoking is smoking of cigarettes, followed by pipe smoking and cigar smoking.

Lighting a cigarette etc. is done with a lighter or match. One of the most common favors asked from a stranger is for a light; it is also used to get into contact with someone.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Health effects
3 Moral aspects
4 Legal aspects


Tobacco smoking, using both pipes and cigars, was long common to many Native American cultures of the Americas. It is depicted in the art of the Classic era Maya civilization of some 1500 years ago.

With the arrival of the Europeans in the New World late in the 15th century, tobacco smoking was brought to Europe, and from there gradually spread to the rest of the world.

The cigarette was less common than the cigar or the smoking pipe until the early 20th century, when cheap mechanically made cigarettes became common.

Health effects

It has been scientifically established that "tobacco use is the single most important preventable risk to human health in developed countries and an important cause of premature death worldwide."1

The most important are lung cancer and other cancers of the respiratory tract. Cancers of the larynx and tongue are also important causes of mortality and morbidity.
There are around 3000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Below are chemicals of known or supected carcinogenicity. The classification reflects the fact that there are no direct data on humans :

  • Carcinogenic
  • Probably carcinogenic to humans
    • Acrylonitrile
    • Benzo[a]anthracene
    • Benzo[α]pyrene
    • 1,3-Butadiene
    • Dibenz(a,h)anthracene
    • Formaldehyde
    • N-Nitrosodiethylamine
    • N-Nitrosodimethylamine
  • Possibly carcinogenic to humans
    • Acetaldehyde
    • Benzo[b]fluoranthene
    • Benzo[j]fluoranthene
    • Benzo[k]fluoranthene
    • Dibenz[a,h]acridine
    • Dibenz[a,j]acridine
    • 7H-Dibenz[c,g]carbazole
    • Dibenzo(a,i)pyrene
    • Dibenzo(a,I)pyrene
    • 1,1-Dimethylhydrazine
    • Hydrazine
    • Indeno[1,2,3-cd]pyrene
    • Lead
    • 5-Methylchrysene
    • 4-(Methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK)
    • 2-Nitropropane
    • N-Nitrosodiethanolamine
    • N-Nitrosomethylethylamine
    • N-Nitrosomorpholine
    • N'-Nitrosonornicotine (NNN)
    • N-Nitrosopyrrolidine
    • Quinoline
    • iv ortho-Toluidine
    • Urethane (Ethyl Carbamate)

The length of time that a person continues to smoke as well as the amount smoked increases their chances of contracting lung cancer. However, if someone stops smoking, then these chances steadily decrease as the damage to their lungs is repaired.

Smoking also increases the chance of heart disease. Several ingredients of tobacco lead to the narrowing of blood vessels, increasing the likelihood of a block, and thus a heart attack. Other tobacco chemicals lead to high blood pressure. Also, some chemicals damage the inside of arteries, for example making it possible for cholesterol to adhere to the artery wall, possibly leading to a heart attack.

Diseases linked to tobacco smoking:

Nicotine is a powerful stimulant and is one of the main factors leading to the addictiveness of tobacco smoking. Although the amount of nicotine inhaled with tobacco smoke is quite small (most of the substance is destroyed by the heat) it is still sufficient to cause addiction. The amount of nicotine absorbed by the body from smoking depends on many factors, including the type of tobacco, whether the smoke is inhaled, and whether a filter is used. On average it takes about seven seconds for the substance to reach the brain.

Many of tobacco's health effects can be avoided through Smoking cessation.

Moral aspects

Even before the health risks of smoking were scientifically proven, it was considered a harmful and immoral habit by some Christian preachers and social reformers. Tobacco was listed, along with drunkenness, gambling, cards, dancing and theater-going, in J.M. Judy's Questionable Amusements and Worthy Substitutes, which was published in 1904 by the Western Methodist Book Concern of Chicago. Judy wrote that "Tobacco dulls the mind. It does this not only by wasting the body, the physical basis of the mind, but it does it through habits of intellectual idleness, which the user of tobacco naturally forms. Whoever heard of a first-class loafer who did not e-a-t the weed or burn it, or both?" In addition, he claimed, "Tobacco wastes the body" and "blunts the moral nature."[1] A similar anti-tobacco position began as early as 1833 in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church) and still continues. (See, for example, Word of Wisdom.) The LDS Church proscribes smokers from engaging in priesthood responsibilities and participating in church ordinancess such as Eternal Marriage. Most modern opposition to smoking, however, is based on health concerns rather than moral judgments.

Legal aspects

"Passive smoking" or "secondhand smoke" - also known as "environmental tobacco smoke" (ETS) or "involuntary smoking" - occurs when the smoke from one person's cigarette is inhaled by other people. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1993 issued a report estimating that 3,000 lung-cancer related deaths in the US were caused by passive smoking every year. Lobbyists and researchers supported by the tobacco industry aggressively attacked the EPA study as "junk science," but subsequent research has generally supported its conclusions. In 2002, a group of 29 experts from 12 countries convened by the Monographs Programme of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World Health Organization reviewed all significant published evidence related to tobacco smoking and cancer. It concluded its evaluation of the carcinogenic risks associated with involuntary smoking, with second-hand smoke also being classified as carcinogenic to humans.[1] An earlier WHO epidemiology study also found "weak evidence of a dose-response relationship between risk of lung cancer and exposure to spousal and workplace ETS."[1] The fact that the evidence was described as "weak" has been interpreted by the tobacco industry and its supporters as evidence that the ETS-lung cancer link has been "disproven." In reality, the "weakness" of the evidence stems from the fact that the risk of ETS for individuals is relatively small, making it difficult to detect through epidemiology. In addition to epidemiology, however, several other types of scientific evidence (including animal experiments, chemical constituent analysis of ETS, and human metabolic studies) support the WHO and EPA conclusions.

Smoking continues to be a major problem because of smokers' addiction to the nicotine in tobacco smoke, and the vigorous marketing of cigarettes by the tobacco industry. Several western countries have put restrictions on cigarette advertising, particularly on advertising that appears to target minors..

In many countries smoking in public buildings is now prohibited. Many office buildings contain specially ventilated smoking areas, some are required by law to provide them.

In the United States and New Zealand, it has long been illegal to sell tobacco products to minors.

See also other forms of tobacco use :


  1. Joint Committee on Smoking and Health. Smoking and health: physician responsibility; a statement of the Joint Committee on Smoking and Health. Chest 1995; 198:201- 208
  2. Boffetta,P., Agudo,A., Ahrens,W., Benhamou,E., Benhamou,S., Darby,S.C., Ferro,G., Fortes,C., Gonzalez,C.A., Jockel,K.H., Krauss,M., Kreienbrock,L., Kreuzer,M., Mendes,A., Merletti,F., Nyberg,F., Pershagen,G., Pohlabeln,H., Riboli,E., Schmid,G., Simonato,L., Tredaniel,J., Whitley,E., Wichmann,H.E., Saracci,R. 1998. Multicenter case-control study of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke and lung cancer in Europe. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 90:1440-1450.