Exploring the Complex World of Smoking Culture

Smoking culture refers to the cultural practices related to smoking tobacco. This culture spreads among people in a society through direct observation and imitation.

Smoking is a social activity that enables individuals to form well-bound relationships in a society. It also helps them to utilize their leisure time effectively.


Smoking culture developed around the world with the spread of tobacco cultivation. Like many other cultural traditions it became fully integrated with societies and was practiced by all social classes. The cigarette reached its apogee in the decades after the end of World War II, when it was seen as part of an elegant lifestyle, symbolized by actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean and mainstays of advertising such as the Marlboro Man.

The earliest depictions of smoking can be found on Classical Mayan pottery from around the 9th century, and in the 17th century paintings in Europe and Asia began to feature smokers and tobacco. It was also widely used among Native Americans, usually smoked in a pipe, but sometimes chewed, drunk or taken as snuff to achieve trance-like states and contact with the spirit world.

Recent research from a Nez Perce site in Idaho suggests that indigenous peoples used kinnikinnick, the primary precontact wild tobacco plant, to smoke in rituals for both health and pleasure. The cigarette and cigar were often used as social accessories and in public displays of wealth, such as at parties and sporting events.


While public health campaigns and laws have been successful in reducing smoking rates globally, the use of tobacco in entertainment media and culture has become an issue. Glamorizing and re-normalizing tobacco use in pop culture could threaten the progress made, especially among youth, in curbing tobacco use.

In societies like the US, cigarette smoking gives people a sense of sophistication and a ‘coolness’ sensation. Movie producers have used this fact to portray a mystique feeling of their characters and make them attractive.

Besides these, smokers can experience increased blood circulation, which leads to mental alertness and a ‘wake-up feeling’. Smoking also enhances the taste of a meal. A cigar, for example, goes well with wine and spirits and improves the taste of roast meat and non-alcoholic coffee, such as Nescafe. Smoking also gives a person a sense of belonging in a society by enhancing their social interactions. These positive perceptions of smoking contribute to its acceptance in society.


Smoking has been an integral part of the culture in many societies around the world. In some cultures, smoking is associated with certain rituals, while in others, it is used to show wealth and status. It is also a source of recreation, and the culture has found its way into the arts, music, movies, and literature. Smoking has its pros and cons, and it is important to understand the impact that this habit has on society.

The practice of smoking started in early times as a part of religious ceremonies, cleansing rituals or to alter the mind for divination and spiritual enlightenment. As time went by, it evolved into an activity that was considered cool and modern by youths. It was popularized by movie stars like Marlene Dietrich and Humphrey Bogart.

The cultural environment where smoking is embedded has a direct effect on health and well-being. Individuals who are conscientious and respect personal health will be more likely to engage in health-promoting behaviour. For example, they will regularly go for physical check-ups.


The best way to prevent tobacco initiation is for nations to implement comprehensive strategies that focus on smoking prevention, Rees says. This includes raising excise taxes to deter smoking and raise revenue for tobacco control, implementing policies to protect people from secondhand smoke (SHS), and promoting educational campaigns that provide detailed health information.

Glamorizing and re-normalizing tobacco use could threaten the significant progress made in decreasing national smoking rates. For example, despite the fact that Joe Camel hasn’t puffed on a cigarette on TV screens since 1971, many movies, on-demand content and video games still feature smoking imagery. Moreover, movies often lack appropriate warnings or ratings.

Health care professionals can also help reduce smoking by asking people if they smoke, encouraging them to quit using tobacco and supporting their cessation efforts with a structured programme of behavioural support. This is particularly important when working with people of color and other impacted communities, given their higher risk for smoking and nicotine addiction.