Myths and attitudes that sustain smoking in China

J Health Commun. Oct-Nov 2008;13(7):654-66. doi: 10.1080/10810730802412222.


China is a particularly critical country for global tobacco control. It has the world's largest number of smokers and is a prize target for the multinational tobacco companies. This article presents results from 80 focus groups and 30 in-depth interviews on the salient myths and misconceptions concerning active and passive smoking for the purpose of developing appropriate tobacco control policies and intervention strategies to reduce tobacco consumption and secondhand smoke exposure. All participants resided in three counties in Jiangxi, Henan, and Sichuan provinces and were from hospitals, schools, and rural and urban communities. The myths and misconceptions included the identification of smoking as a symbol of personal freedom, the importance of tobacco in social and cultural interactions, the ability to control the health effects of smoking through "reasonable" and "measured" use, and the importance of tobacco to the economy. These myths were found in nonsmokers and smokers alike, in both rural and urban areas, and across the key professional groups. For China to curb its current smoking epidemic, tobacco control efforts will have to persuasively address and counter prevailing misconceptions and social norms surrounding smoking. This article discusses the implications of misconceptions and prosmoking attitudes for tobacco control efforts in China.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • China / epidemiology
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Smoking Prevention