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Russian female smokers increase in number while male smokers decrease

August 18, 2016, 21:51 UTC+3

With regard to female smoking, the HSE researchers note that the corresponding rates have started to grow before transmission to the market economy

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© Dmitry Rogulin /TASS

Moscow, August 18. /TASS/ Researchers from the Higher School of Economics (HSE) have analyzed the smoking statistics in Russia over the last 70 years and shown that over recent years female smoking in Russia is increasing, while men smoke less now, as reported by the press-service of HSE.

The researchers have also estimated the influence of education on the smoking trends and found out that the smoking rates are increasing at a higher rate among people with the lower educational attainment as compared to more educated citizens.

In the article by the director of the HSE’s International Centre for Health Economics, Management, and Policy Christopher J Gerry and research assistant at the Centre, Diana Quirmbach, the data on the smoking over the last seventy years are collected. The data have been gathered in the course of Russian monitoring of the economic state of citizens health organized by HSE and the global questionnaire of adults about the tobacco consumption. The particular attention has been paid to the smoking statistics from 1991.

The scientists have found out that alongside the lowering of male smoking, the rates of smoking women increase. In the period between 1995 and 2007, male smoking rates were around 60 percent, then they started to decline and had fallen to below 50 percent by 2014. The strongest decreases are observed in the two youngest age groups (15–24 and 25–34). In 1995, about three-quarters of men in the above-mentioned age groups were reported being excess smokers, while by 2014, this number had fallen to 57 percent. For females, the opposite holds true: the overall percentage of smoking women has increased from 9% in 1995 to 14% in 2014.

Possible reasons

With regard to female smoking, the HSE researchers note that the corresponding rates have started to grow before transmission to the market economy. Indeed, the entry to the post-soviet market of Transnational Tobacco Companies with the aggressive marketing targeted at women has prompted percentage of female smokers. But importantly, the smoking was already reconfigured in the public mind as a socially acceptable and desirable behaviour for modern women and especially for young women. And this social acceptance assured the success of the tobacco industry.

Among the reasons caused such cultural changes, the HSE researchers point the following. First, the increasing emphasis on consumer culture emerged in the Brezhnev era. Second, the increasing urbanisation in the 1960s and 1970s gave rise to reduced social control over female behaviour. And third, the youth cultural groups in the post-Stalin period appeared. Such prominent grouping, the so-called ‘tusovka’, united cultural and well-educated young people living in large cities and interested in music, dance, and fashions. Accordingly, the changes in female smoking behaviour began in the 1970s and accelerated through the 1980s and 1990s.

Impact of education

The smoking dynamics is also influenced by the educational level of people. The smoking habit was first adopted by women in higher socioeconomic groups and then spread to other groups. Among women born in the 1940s and 1950s, those with the university education have higher smoking rates compared to individuals with lower education.

In the recent years, the trend has changed: young men and women with low educational attainment smoke 2-3 times more than their highly educated peers. Simultaneously, the smoker percentage is increasing among young women with low education, as well as among low educated young men despite the overall decreasing trend in the number of smoking men.

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