The history of smoking dates back to as early as 5000 BC in shamanistic rituals. Many ancient civilizations, such as the Babylonians, Indians and Chinese, burnt incense as a part of religious rituals, as did the Israelites and the later Catholic and Orthodox Christian churches. Smoking in the
probably had its origins in the incense-burning ceremonies of shamans but was later adopted for pleasure, or as a social tool. The smoking of tobacco and various other hallucinogenic drugs was used to achieve trances and to come into contact with the spirit world. Americas
Substances such as Cannabis, clarified butter (ghee), fish offal, dried snake skins and various pastes molded around incense sticks dates back at least 2000 years. Fumigation (dhupa) and fire offerings (homa) are prescribed in the avurveda for medical purposes, and have been practiced for at least 3,000 years while smoking, dhumrapana (literally "drinking smoke"), has been practiced for at least 2,000 years. Before modern times these substances have been consumed throughpipes, with stems of various lengths or chillums.
Cannabis smoking was common in the
Middle East before the arrival of tobacco, and was early on a common social activity that centered around the type of water pipe called a hookah. Smoking, especially after the introduction of tobacco, was an essential component of Muslim society and culture and became integrated with important traditions such as weddings, funerals and was expressed in architecture, clothing, literature and poetry.
Cannabis smoking was introduced to Sub-Saharan Africa through
Ethiopia and the east African coast by either Indian or Arab traders in the 13th century or earlier and spread on the same trade routes as those that carried coffee, which originated in the highlands of . It was smoked in calabash water pipes with terra cotta smoking bowls, apparently an Ethiopian invention which was later conveyed to eastern, southern and central Ethiopia Africa.
At the time of the arrivals of Reports from the first European explorers and conquistadors to reach the Americas tell of rituals where native priests smoked themselves into such high degrees of intoxication that it is unlikely that the rituals were limited to just tobacco.
As of 2000, smoking is practiced by 1.22 billion people. Assuming no change in prevalence it is predicted that 1.45 billion people will smoke in 2010 and 1.5 to 1.9 billion in 2025. Assuming that prevalence will decrease at 1% a year and that there will be a modest increase of income of 2%, it is predicted the number of smokers will stand at 1.3 billion in 2010 and 2025.
Smoking is generally five times higher among men than women, however the gender gap declines with younger age. In developed countries smoking rates for men have peaked and have begun to decline, however for women they continue to climb.
As of 2002, about twenty percent of young teens (13–15) smoke worldwide. From which 80,000 to 100,000 children begin smoking every day—roughly half of which live in
Asia. Half of those who begin smoking in adolescent years are projected to go on to smoke for 15 to 20 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that "Much of the disease burden and premature mortality attributable to tobacco use disproportionately affect the poor". Of the 1.22 billion smokers, 1 billion of them live in developing or transitional economies. Rates of smoking have leveled off or declined in the developed world. In the developing world, however, tobacco consumption is rising by 3.4% per year as of 2002.
The WHO in 2004 projected 58.8 million deaths to occur globally, from which 5.4 million are tobacco-attributed, and 4.9 million as of 2007. As of 2002, 70% of the deaths are in developing countries.
Most smokers begin during adolescence or early adulthood. Smoking has elements of risk-taking and rebellion, which often appeal to young people. The presence of high-status models and peers may also encourage smoking. Because teenagers are influenced more by their peers than by adults, attempts by parents, schools, and health professionals at preventing people from trying cigarettes are often unsuccessful.
Children of smoking parents are more likely to smoke than children with non-smoking parents. One study found that parental smoking cessation was associated with less adolescent smoking, except when the other parent currently smoked. A current study tested the relation of adolescent smoking to rules regulating where adults are allowed to smoke in the home. Results showed that restrictive home smoking policies were associated with lower likelihood of trying smoking for both middle and high school students.
Many anti-smoking organizations claim that teenagers begin their smoking habits due to peer pressure, and cultural influence portrayed by friends. However, one study found that direct pressure to smoke cigarettes did not play a significant part in adolescent smoking. In that study, adolescents also reported low levels of both normative and direct pressure to smoke cigarettes. A similar study showed that individuals play a more active role in starting to smoke than has previously been acknowledged and that social processes other than peer pressure need to be taken into account. Another study's results revealed that peer pressure was significantly associated with smoking behavior across all age and gender cohorts, but that intrapersonal factors were significantly more important to the smoking behavior of 12–13 year-old girls than same-age boys. Within the 14–15 year-old age group, one peer pressure variable emerged as a significantly more important predictor of girls' than boys' smoking. It is debated whether peer pressure or self-selection is a greater cause of adolescent smoking.
Psychologists such as Hans Eysenck have developed a personality profile for the typical smoker. Extraversion is the trait that is most associated with smoking, and smokers tend to be sociable, impulsive, risk taking, and excitement seeking individuals. Although, personality and social factors may make people likely to smoke, the actual habit is a function of operant conditioning. During the early stages, smoking provides pleasurable sensations (because of its action on the dopamine system) and thus serves as a source of positive reinforcement.