Myths and attitudes that sustain smoking in China

Shaojun Ma, Mai Anh Hoang, Jonathan M. Samet, Junfang Wang, Cuizhu Mei, Xuefang Xu, Frances A. Stillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)654-666
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of health communication
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Library and Information Sciences


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