Gender equity and tobacco control: bringing masculinity into focus Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Gender is a key but often overlooked--determinant of tobacco use, especially in Asia, where sex-linked differences in prevalence rates are very large. In this article we draw upon existing data to consider the implications of these patterns for gender equity and propose approaches to redress inequity through gender-sensitive tobacco control activities. International evidence demonstrates that, in many societies, risk behaviours (including tobacco use) are practised substantially more by men and boys, and are also viewed as expressions of masculine identity. While gender equity focuses almost exclusively on the relative disadvantage of girls and women that exists in most societies, disproportionate male use of tobacco has profound negative consequences for men (as users) and for women (nonusers). Surprisingly, health promotion and tobacco control literature rarely focus on the role of gender in health risks among boys and men. However, tobacco industry marketing has masterfully incorporated gender norms, and also other important cultural values, to ensure its symbols are context-specific. By addressing gender-specific risks within the local cultural context--as countries are enjoined to do within the Framework Convention's Guiding Principles--it may be possible to accelerate the impact of mechanisms such as tobacco pricing, restrictions on marketing, smoking bans and provision of accurate information. It is essential that we construct a new research-to-policy framework for gender-sensitive tobacco control. Successful control of tobacco can only be strengthened by bringing males, and the concept of gender as social construction, back into our research and discussion on health and gender equity.

publication date

  • June 2010