Developing Smokers

November 12, 2007

There are 350 million smokers in China (vs. 540 million non-smokers). After years of hearing public health warnings against smoking and the legal fights against big tobacco companies it makes you wonder why people in developing countries take up smoking in the first place.

I think there is a common belief in the west that smoking is caused by 1) misinformation, and 2) companies that exploit this misinformation. The misinformation/exploitation explanation may very well explain the smoking numbers in China but I have some reservations.

My skepticism has its roots in anecdotal evidence from a couple of scuba trips to Indonesia. A high number of the dive masters in Indonesia smoke. Misinformation does not seem to apply. These young men (all have been men) have a good grasp of health issues dealing with the risk of decompression sickness and poisonous stings (rarely lethal but painful) for themselves and the divers in their charge. They speak English and are exposed to westerners who preach the evils of smoking to them daily. Yet they smoke in droves.

There seems to be some kind of psychological bias in place that accounts for this behavior.


One Response to “Developing Smokers”

  1. […] 28, 2008 In a post about the prevalence of smokers in China I challenged the assumption that smoking is caused by misinformation promoted by Big Tobacco: My […]

Comments are closed.