Medical Anthropology helps promote Chinese Smokers’ health

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In his article, “Anthropology in China’s health promotion and tobacco,” Matthew Kohrman, an anthropology professor at Stanford University, argues that although medical anthropology cannot eradicate smoking in China, it provides distinct perspectives to promote people’s attitudes to tobacco and “imagining new ways” to solve problems.

It may sound a little bit awkward that one of the reasons I’m proud of my father is that he never smoked. However, most of my male relatives and teachers are smokers, even heavy-smokers. Just like Kohrman mentions in the article, smoking has been encouraged in China’s society because it’s a key gender differentiation as well as a sign of masculinity. When I was in the senior high school, smoking was used to show courage and so-called maturity by some of boys. More seriously, some adult males considered that smoking was a way of developing life in economic and personal aspects; some of them even thought it’s a kind of implication of social status. Few people realized that smoking is dangerous to health before medical anthropology provided this view.

Just like Kohrman suggests in his article, in the 20th century, one million citizens died every year from tobacco-related diseases. More and more data shows that smoking is bad for individual’s health and families’ benefits. The idea that smoking is unhealthy has been spread widely. In 2012, China’s Ministry of Health published an article about dangerousness of smoking for the first time. It means the government admits that smoking is a deadly behavior.

Medical anthropology is also useful for providing ways to promote Chinese male smokers’ health. In the article, anthropologists suggest that interventions for smoking should be concentrated on two aspects. One is discouraging the positive image of smoking among young people; the other is encouraging women to organize non-smoking activities. The author doesn’t explain why concentrate on these two aspects could lead to the decline of male smokers in China. However, from my own anthropological perspective, for the first aspect, young teenagers are easily to be influenced by people who surround them. Especially those whom young people admire have greater influence on them, so they will mimic those people’s behaviors. Hence, it’s important to establish a non-smoking male symbol for young people. For the second aspect, women can make a big difference in stopping smoking since male smokers are their husbands, sons and fathers. In China, a male usually has dominant status in the family; hence, his health condition is important to the family’s benefits. In many families, women play an important role in helping men stop smoking; for example, a wife will try her best to stop her husband’s smoking by forcing him to write a promise letter or taking his credit card away.

Medical anthropology helps Chinese smokers become aware of the harm of smoking as well as provide them some unique ways to promote health.

Reference:  : https://web.stanford.edu/dept/anthropology/cgi-bin/web/?q=system/files/XiaoKohrman%282%29.pdf

http://www.gov.cn/jrzg/2012-05/31/content_2149305.htm  (It’s the original website of the translated one)

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One thought on “Medical Anthropology helps promote Chinese Smokers’ health

  1. I never knew that in China smoking was a sign of social class and masculinity and you did well explaining the article. This is an insightful post and it does a good job explaining how medical anthropology methods are being put into place to bring an end to smoking. You did a good job in this post explaining how the Chinese are finding creative solutions to stop smoking, and anthropology is all about viewing things differently and discovering new ways to go about living in the world. By getting women involved in the campaign as a way of peer-pressuring their husbands and male family members to quit smoking, it demonstrates how powerful anthropology can be within a society. By using the power of social relationships, the Chinese have found a way to remove smoking from their country and will hopefully put an end to premature deaths caused by smoking.

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