China’s Nicotine Habit


Mike Frick tours tobacco farms in Yunnan Province while investigating the country's incipient anti-smoking movement, which achieved a partial ban in public indoor spaces in May but is up against serious challenges from a government and tobacco industry that are "one and the same." Some startling statistics:

China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of tobacco. The 2010 Global Adult Tobacco Survey, conducted by the Chinese Centers for Disease Control in partnership with the US CDC and the World Health Organization, estimates that China has 350 million smokers, or more smokers than the entire population of the United States. Smoking in China remains a highly gendered behavior with 57.4% of men and 3% of women smoking, respectively (WHO, 2010). The concentration of smoking among men reflects advertising and marketing strategies that have linked tobacco to traditional notions of masculine identity (nanzihan – ???), political leadership (imagery of Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping smoking) and expressions of nationalism and patriotism (cigarette brands such as Zhonghua – ??). Anthropologists such as Matthew Kohrman have described how exchanging cigarettes forms the currency of male networking and friendship in rural and urban China (Kohrman, 2007).

Apparently smoking is still permitted in sports stadiums. 

(Photo: New signs warn 'No Smoking' at a shopping mall May 1, 2011 in Wuhan, Hubei Province of China. Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)