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Smoking is a practice in which a substance is burned and the resulting smoke breathed in to be tasted and absorbed into the bloodstream.Most commonly, the substance used is the dried leaves of the tobacco plant, which have been rolled into a small square of rice paper to create a small, round cylinder called a "cigarette".
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 Ayurveda 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.
In Europe, it introduced a new type of social activity and a form of drug intake which previously had been unknown.
Perception surrounding smoking has varied over time and from one place to another: holy and sinful, sophisticated and vulgar, a panacea and deadly health hazard.
Smoking can be dated to as early as 5000 BCE, and has been recorded in many different cultures across the world.
Early smoking evolved in association with religious ceremonies; as offerings to deities, in cleansing rituals or to allow shamans and priests to alter their minds for purposes of divination or spiritual enlightenment.Before modern times these substances have been consumed through pipes, 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.After the European exploration and conquest of the Americas, the practice of smoking tobacco quickly spread to the rest of the world.In regions like India and Sub-Saharan Africa, it merged with existing practices of smoking (mostly of cannabis).In some cultures, smoking is also carried out as a part of various rituals, where participants use it to help induce trance-like states that, they believe, can lead them to spiritual enlightenment.Smoking generally has negative health effects, because smoke inhalation inherently poses challenges to various physiologic processes such as respiration.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 usually not commercially available.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 Ethiopia.