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Breathing the fumes of burning plant material, especially tobacco, from a cigarette, cigar, or pipe. Despite social and medical arguments against tobacco use, smoking is widely practiced around the world. Nicotine is an alkaloid in tobacco that is addictive and can have both stimulating and tranquilizing psychoactive effects. The tar (residue) and gases produced by burning tobacco have many negative health effects. They include lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and laryngeal cancer; heart disease and stroke; and emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases other health-related risk factors (seeasbestosis). A nonsmoker who breathes secondhand smoke (such as the smoke from a lit cigarette) is at an increased risk of the same diseases that affect smokers. Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Doctor-run programs, along with nicotine patches and gums that provide diminishing doses of nicotine, are among the aids available to help those who wish to quit smoking. Hypnosis, acupuncture, herbal remedies, and other approaches are also widely advertised as ways to quit smoking. Smoking has been greatly reduced in the health-conscious West even as it rises in many less-developed countries.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on smoking, visit Britannica.com.