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J Soc Hist. 2010;44(1):7-21.

"We mentally ill smoke a lot": identity, smoking, and mental illness in America.


Most of the history of the tobacco industry over the last few decades has focused on the conflicts between tobacco industry leaders who promoted smoking and tobacco control advocates who warned of the health consequences. Yet a view of this conflict from the perspective of smokers who are also mentally ill raises questions about how to frame public health policy for these individuals. Mentally ill consumers wrote to the tobacco industry between the 1970s and 1990s and expressed their commitment to smoking and to cigarette companies, despite their awareness of the health risks. This paper explores the relationship between mentally ill consumers, the tobacco industry, and public health in the United States through letters written by mentally ill smokers.

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