Tag Archives: smoking/tobacco

Skoal’s Imagined Community

Flashback Friday.

Benedict Anderson famously coined the phrase “imagined community” to describe the way that large groups of people without direct contact could nonetheless think of themselves as a meaningful group.  He originally discussed this in the context of nations.  In his book, he writes:

It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion… it is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.

Whenever someone refers to “Americans,” he or she is conjuring up this idea of an imagined community.  Why do we feel that we have so much in common with other Americans?   We will only meet a very small percentage of Americans in our lifetimes.  We have things in common with some other Americans, but very little in common with still others.  And, in many important ways, we are probably more like certain segments of other societies (e.g., individuals in the middle class in the U.S., for example, are probably more like those in the middle class in the U.K. than they are like very poor or very rich Americans).

Others have used Benedict Anderson’s term to describe other kinds of imagined communities.  Apparently Skoal is hoping that “dippers” will find a sense of comraderie and devotion to each other (“loyalty”) and the product through the imagining of a Skoal community (“Brotherhood”):

03-011

Text:

OUR 75th ANNIVERSARY IS ALL ABOUT YOU.

75 years ago we created Skoal Smokeless Tobacco.  And on that day, dippers created something else: A Brotherhood.

Guys who share a love of quality dip.  Enjoyed the finest way possible.
It’s something we never could have anticipated.  And something we’re honored to be a part of.
That’s why, instead of making our 75th anniversary about us, we’re making it about you.

2009 is the Year of the Dipper.  And we’ve come up with some pretty big ways to celebrate it.  And we’re not just talking cake.
So keep an eye out.  And a pinch ready.
You’ve been giving us your business — and your loyalty — since 1934.
It’s time you got some thanks in return.

SKOAL
WELCOME TO THE BROTHERHOOD

Originally posted in 2009.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday Fun: The Flintstones take a Smoke Break

A blast from the past.  Fred and Barney let their wives do all the work, pull out a pack of Winston’s:

Originally posted in 2008.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Saturday Stat: Smoking Keeps Its Hold on the Poor

At the New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise and Robert Gebeloff discuss the tenaciousness of tobacco in low-income areas.  Smoking rates are declining, but much more slowly in some counties than others.  Local residents suggest that smoking is the least of their worries:

“Just sit and watch the parking lot for a day,” Mrs. Bowling said. “If smoking is the worst thing that’s happening, praise the Lord.”

Smoking rates, 1996:1a

Smoking rates, 2013:1

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The U.S. #1 in Early Deaths

The Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council released some damaging numbers this month: Americans ranks startlingly low in life expectancy, compared to 16 other similarly developed countries.  This is especially true for younger Americans. Indeed, among people 55 and under, we rank dead last.  Among those 50-80 years old, our life expectancy is 3rd or 2nd to last.

Sabrina Tavernise at the New York Times reports that the “major contributors” to low life expectancy among younger Americans are high rates of death from guns, car accidents, and drug overdoses.  We also have the highest rate of diabetes and the second-highest death rate from lung and heart disease.

Americans had “the lowest probability over all of surviving to the age of 50.”  The numbers for American men were slightly worse than those for women. Overall, life expectancy for men was 17 out of 17; women came in 16th.  Education and poverty made a difference too, as did the more generous social services provided by the other countries in the study.

What isn’t making a difference?  Apparently our incredible rate of health care spending.

Via Citings and Sightings.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Interactive Graphics of Health Habits

Mark Fischetti has posted an interactive graphic at Scientific American that lets you look at the prevalence of several behaviors or characteristics measured on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s survey on risk factors. The graphic includes data on exercise, tobacco use, heavy drinking, binge drinking, and obesity. Commenters on the post suggested it’s unnecessarily snarky about obesity; that said, it provides a quick snapshot of several behaviors demographers often use to judge general trends in health. For each topic, a graph shows the state where it is highest and lowest; you can also select up to 3 additional states to compare.

For instance, the percent of people who took part in a physical activity in the last month is highest in Oregon and lowest in Mississippi; I added my home state of Oklahoma (dark blue) and current residence of Nevada (light blue) too:

You also get a map for each topic that shows where it’s most or least common. Here’s the map for smoking:

Sconnies, you may not be surprised to know that Wisconsin leads the nation in binge drinking:

I can’t embed the graphic, so you’ll have to go to Scientific American’s post to play around and compare your own state.

Producing Bodies in Anti-Smoking Campaigns

Last month the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a series of graphic anti-smoking ads intended to “raise awareness of the human suffering caused by smoking and to encourage smokers to quit.”   The campaign, titled “Tips From Former Smokers,” depicts individuals who have experienced some of the potential effects of tobacco use, including stomas, stroke, lung removal, heart attack, limb amputations, and asthma.  For example, this ad features several former smokers who offer “tips” on how to live with a throat stoma (hole), such as “Crouch, don’t bend over—you don’t want to lose the food in your stomach”:

This ad shows Terrie, a throat cancer survivor, completing the morning routine she performs in order to maintain her appearance after losing her hair and teeth and having a tracheotomy:

Finally, this ad depicts several people who suffered a vascular disease brought on by smoking who had to have limbs amputated:

In addition to the whether these ads will be effective in persuading smokers to quit, we might ask whether fear and stigma are appropriate health promotion strategies.  Is it possible or ethical to scare people into changing their behaviors?  What are the implications of using stigmatized people to serve as a warning label to others?

What’s most striking about these ads is how they use and portray the human body.  Medical sociologist Deborah Lupton suggests that health promotion campaigns such as this one do not simply depict bodies but also produce them; that is, the ways we talk about and create images of certain bodies says something about who or what that body is and what it does. She argues that when the body is seen as uncontrolled, say, with holes or missing limbs, then the self is understood as undisciplined.  For these former smokers, their undisciplined selves resulted in their uncontrolled bodies. Lupton suggests that by producing the body as a site of contamination or catastrophe the rest of us can be kept in line by fear.

In these ads, a group of disabled people and cancer survivors are used as a warning for current smokers to quit.  The ads invite us to feel disgust at their bodies and fear at what could happen to our own.  In particular, Terrie’s ad invokes gendered beauty norms and prompts viewers to imagine themselves without traditional markers of attractiveness such a full head of hair.

Paying attention to how health promotion images use the body is one way to think more critically about bodies, well-being, and how to effectively promote healthy behaviors.

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Christie Barcelos is a doctoral candidate in Public Health/Community Health Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Torches of Freedom: Women and Smoking Propaganda

Edward Bernays (1891-1995) is largely considered the founder of public relations (or “engineering consent,” as he called it) but is not known very well outside of the marketing and advertising fields. A nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays was the first to theorize that people could be made to want things they don’t need by appealing to unconscious desires (to be free, to be successful etc.). Bernays, and propaganda theorist Walter Lippman, were members of the U.S. Government’s Committee on Public Information (CPI), which successfully convinced formally isolationist Americans to support entrance into World War I. While propaganda was commonly thought of as a negative way of manipulating the masses that should be avoided, Bernays believed that it was necessary for the functioning of a society, as otherwise people would be overwhelmed with too many choices. In his words:

Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.

[Source: Bernays, Propaganda, 1928, p. 52; available here.]

After WWI, Bernays was hired by the American Tobacco Company to encourage women to start smoking. While men smoked cigarettes, it was not publicly acceptable for women to smoke. Bernays staged a dramatic public display of women smoking during the Easter Day Parade in New York City. He then told the press to expect that women suffragists would light up “torches of freedom” during the parade to show they were equal to men. Like the “You’ve come a long way, baby” ads, this campaign commodified women’s progress and desire to be considered equal to men (relevant clip starts at 3:00):

“Cigarettes were a symbol of the penis and of male sexual power…Women would smoke because it was then that they’d have their own penises.”

Here are some of the news photographs of women smoking publicly during the Easter Parade:

[Photos via.]

The campaign was considered successful as sales to women increased afterward. Cigarette companies followed Bernays’s lead and created ad campaigns that targeted women. Lucky Brand Cigarettes capitalized on recent fashions for skinny women by telling women to “Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet”:

Marlboro, in stark contrast to the Marlboro Man ads we’re familiar with today, started the “Mild as May” campaign to encourage women to take up smoking cigarettes that were appropriately mild and easier to smoke:


Chesterfield, in a 1930s ad, argued that “women started to smoke…just about the time they began to vote”:

A later ad for Phillip Morris tells women to “Believe in yourself!”

Cigarette makers also worked to teach women how to smoke properly. Ads often depicted women in the act of smoking. Some companies, like Philip Morris, even held smoking demonstrations for women:
[Via.]

The article describes how a “pretty registered nurse” is touring the country to teach women proper smoking etiquette. The article also lists “men’s pet peeves” and “women’s pet peeves” for men and women smokers. (Full text after the jump below.)

Together, these efforts to conflate smoking with freedom and make smoking acceptable for women created a new set of consumers and reinforced Bernays’s argument that demand could be created.

(more…)

What Do Smokers Google?

If I ran the Federal scary anti-smoking image warning program, I might show smokers the list of health-related terms that show up most in the states with the highest cigarette smoking rates.

If you take the smoking rates by state, and throw them into the Google Correlate hopper, you can see the 100 search terms that are most highly correlated with that reported smoking behavior. That is, the terms that are most likely to be used in high-smoking states and least likely to be used in the low-smoking states.

Is the result just a lot of noise? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Here are the smoking-related terms in the top 100:

  • camel no 9
  • cigarette coupon
  • cigarette coupons
  • marlboro coupons
  • my time to quit
  • safe cigarettes
  • stopping smoking
  • time to quit
  • fire safe cigarettes
  • ways to stop smoking

So that’s good for face validity — a list of random search terms isn’t likely to have all those smoking terms on it.

But after the smoking terms, the thing that jumps out is the health-related terms. We know from the Google flu tracker that people search for their symptoms. So these caught my eye.

Here is a screen shot of the first page of results:

I selected “stages of copd” as the term to map. The map on the left is the smoking rates; the one on the right is the relative frequency of searches for “stages of copd.” That is, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a nasty disease the most common cause of which is smoking.

Here is the complete list of health-related terms among the top-100 correlates with smoking rates:

Lymph node swelling, which is implicated in the jaw and neck searches, most often reflects infection — which smoking causes.

How strong are the connections? They’re not the strongest I’ve seen on Google Correlate. The “stages of copd” search is correlated with smoking rates at .77 on a scale of 0 to 1. It’s not uncommon to find correlations of .93 (which is the relationship between “quiche” and “volvo v70 xc”).

But considering the smoking rates come from a sample survey (the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) which includes random error, and states are somewhat arbitrary geographic units, that correlation seems pretty high to me. Here’s the scatterplot:

What is the correlation causality story here? I can’t say. But the simplest explanation is that these are the terms smokers (and maybe those who know or care for them) are most likely to Google relative to non-smokers — not that they are the most common searches smokers do, of course, but the searches that differentiate them from non-smokers. The simplest explanation is the best place to start.

I like this list of conditions because in my experience smokers sometimes have the attitude of “you have to die of something.” But it’s not just the chance of dying that smoking increases — it’s a lot of possible forms of suffering along the way.

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The Google Correlate tool is showing the great potential for using Internet search activity to investigate layers of behavior and meaning behind other observable social phenomena, such as race/ethnic compositionhealth behavior, and family patterns.