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New Steps for Tobacco Control In and Outside of China


Stanford University
Senior Fellow, by courtesy
  • Associate Professor, Anthropology

In China during the last decade, citizens have rarely agitated against the ubiquity of cigarettes, at the same time that tobacco products have been responsible for killing more than a millionpeople a year and tobacco-control programs have been enjoying a marked growth in logistical support, discursive attention, and funding. In this article, the author argues that China’s ongoing popular quiescence regarding tobacco stems in part from strategic miscalculations that public health advocates are making. Favoring conceptual logics of expertise, population management, health economics, disease etiology, and rational choice, tobacco control in China is leaving unproblematized the political economic sources of cigarettes, the social suffering tobacco generates, and the ethics, everyday practices, and desires binding citizens and cigarettes together into webs of sociality. Bringing anthropological research to bear, the article describes ways that these strategic miscalculations have unfolded and makes suggestions for alternative ways that public health advocates can help Chinese citizens achieve the collective purpose to repudiate tobacco.

Research Materials