Introduced to Europe in the 15th century, smoking quickly became popular and was believed to have medicinal value ...
It wasn't until the 1950's that a link was established between tobacco and lung cancer - by this time smoking was a mass habit.
There are now hundreds of brands of cigarettes, cigars, tobacco (for use in pipes or for self-rolled cigarettes), plus alternative cigarettes such as Menthol, sold in the UK alone. Differences between products are reflected in price, pack size, taste, and contents (tar, nicotine etc).
Most people begin smoking between the ages of 10 and 18. Peer pressure and curiosity are the major influences that encourage experimentation with tobacco.
Another prevalent influence in our society is the advertising of tobacco products; these depict smoking as an exciting and glamorous adult activity.
Approximately 12.1 million adults in the UK smoke cigarettes. In 1972 smokers amounted to nearly half the population but today the amount is less than one third. This decline has been heavily concentrated in the older age groups, as almost as many young people are taking up the habit but more established smokers are quitting.
The average smoker consumes just over 5000 cigarettes a year (14 cigarettes a day).
The oxygen-carrying capacity of a smoker's blood can be cut by up to 15%, resulting in the heart working harder to get enough oxygen around the body.
Research has shown that smoking reduces life expectancy by 7-8 years. This calculates to a shortening of life by approximately 7-11 minutes per cigarette.
Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death
Approximately 284,000 patients are admitted to NHS hospitals each year because of disease caused by smoking. This occupies an average of 9,500 hospital beds every day.
In addition, smoking-related illness accounts for 8 million consultations with GP's and over 7 million prescriptions each year.
The direct cost to the National Health Service of smoking is £1.5 billion a year. Smokers generally have 25% more sick days annually than non-smokers.
Written by Jeni Cadman.