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Whilst the association between smoking and peptic ulceration has been reported previously, the relationship between smoking and the complications of ulcers, such as perforation, bleeding or acute painful exacerbation, has not been examined. In a retrospective study comparing 275 emergency admissions for peptic ulcer with 275 controls, cigarette smoking was significantly more common only in those with a perforated duodenal ulcer. Of 128 patients with perforated duodenal ulcers, 110 (86%) were cigarette smokers compared with 65 (51%) of the 128 matched controls (X2, P less than 0.01). Cigarette smoking in patients with bleeding or acutely exacerbated ulcers was not significantly more common than in controls. These findings strongly suggest a particular association between smoking and perforated duodenal ulcer.