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Soc Sci Med. 2004 Jan;58(1):1-12.

Gender and the social context of smoking behaviour.

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  • 1Health Administration Department, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128 Succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, Québec, Canada H3C 3J7.


This paper examines the relative effect of both individual and societal factors that impinge directly on smoking behaviour of women and men. The societal factors are cigarettes price, tobacco control legislation, newspaper coverage of tobacco issues, overall economic factors, and social milieu characteristics. Three Canadian provinces are studied, from 1978 to 1995. A repeated cross-section design is used. Data are derived from national surveys and official documents. Results show that smoking occurs in social contexts within which the price of cigarettes appears to have a significant negative impact on the prevalence of smoking and the quantity of cigarettes smoked by men, but no effect on either the prevalence of smoking or the amount smoked by women. More comprehensive and restrictive no-smoking legislation and legislation on youth access to tobacco influence negatively the prevalence of smoking both for men and women. However, these laws do not have the same effects on the number of cigarettes smoked by women and men. Newspaper articles on the other hand, negatively influence smoking prevalence for women and men. As differences are observed in the responsiveness of men and women to tobacco control policies, policymakers and practitioners need to keep in mind that tobacco control policies have to be tailored to the broader context of the lives of women and men. Future work needs also to be done to clarify the interrelationships between social influences on smoking such as price, laws and media, and the relationships between these and intrapersonal and interpersonal factors, as well as other social and cultural factors.

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