Learning to Smoke

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Why do people smoke? Taking a unique approach to this question, Jason Hughes moves beyond the usual focus on biological addiction to demonstrate how sociocultural and personal understandings of smoking crucially affect the way people experience it. Hughes begins by tracing the transformations of tobacco and its use over time, from its role as a hallucinogen in Native American shamanistic ritual to its use as a prophylactic against the plague and a cure for cancer by early Europeans, and finally to the current view of smoking as a global pandemic. He then analyzes tobacco from the perspective of the individual user, exploring how its consumption relates to issues of identity and life changes. Comparing sociocultural and personal experiences, Hughes ultimately asks what the patterns of tobacco use mean for the clinical treatment of smokers and for public policy on smoking. Pointing the way, then, to a more learned and sophisticated understanding of tobacco use, this study should prove to be valuable reading for anyone interested in the history of smoking and the sociology of addiction.

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The University of Chicago Press
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