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What type of smoke? Did it smell electrical? Is ther a possibly of oil leaking to lower part of unit? Popcorn oil. Has the unit been submergerged when cleaning? If it is not an electrical type smoke (smell) the take the unit outside and place it on a non flammmable surface, turn it on and then plug it in. If it's oil or dishwater residue, Let it burn it off, but watch it closely. In the part you would put oil,put a cup or two of water so the heat can be absorbed. Let me know if you will please. When the element has burned off thye whatevers, It will quit smoking. If it is electrical, it will not take long for it to do nothing. You can also remove the bottom cover and take a look see for any indication of burned wiring. The smell will definateltly ID an electrical problem. It's time for a new popcorn popper if it is electrical and if it smells electrical, take it apart to verify it before trashing it uN-PLUGGED WHEN HANDLING A QUESTIONABLE APPLIANCE. :-)
It coud be 2 things. Either a low grade of popping corn, or old popping corn. Hot air poppers blow the same temperature, until you shut them off. Although the better grades of popping corn cost a good amount more, you don't throw half of it away. Once the popping corn container has been opened, you should use it up within about 3 months. The internal moisture content is what determines whether corn will pop or not. Too much or too little moisture will not allow the corn to pop.
Had the same problem so I tried different oils and different popcorn brands. Also found that the o-ring inside had melted and broken up into pieces that rattled when I shook the unit. A friend passed along some Theater Spice (buttery salt) from SGW.com and their instructions said to use 6 Tablespoons of Canola Oil with 1/2 teaspoon of Theatre Spice and 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels. More oil than I wanted but damn that stuff tastes good. I now enjoy using this popper again. In short - More oil.