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J Health Polit Policy Law. 1999 Jun;24(3):421-88.

Social movements as catalysts for policy change: the case of smoking and guns.

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Johns Hopkins University, USA.


Social movements organized around perceived threats to health play an important role in American life as advocates for change in health policies and health behaviors. This article employs a framework drawn from social movement and related sociological theories to compare two such movements: the smoking/tobacco control movement and the gun control movement. A major purpose of the article is to identify specific social movement ideologies and actions that are more or less likely to facilitate achievement of the movement's health policy objectives. The article concludes that the success of health-related social movements is associated with (1) the articulation of a socially (as well as scientifically) credible threat to the public's health, (2) the ability to mobilize a diverse organizational constituency, and (3) the convergence of political opportunities with target vulnerabilities.

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