Geographical variation in attitudes towards smoking: findings from the COMMIT communities
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This paper examines the links between attitudes towards cigarette smoking and the social environments of communities involved in the U.S. National Cancer Institute's Community Intervention Trial for Smoking Cessation (COMMIT). Our objective is to identify sources of social-geographic variation in smoking attitudes and norms which can hinder or enhance public health efforts to reduce tobacco use. The analysis had two stages: (1) place (measured as region and community) was identified as an important main effect accounting for individual variation in smoking attitudes independent of smoking status and personal characteristics; (2) case studies of COMMIT sites in North Carolina, Iowa, Washington, New Jersey and New Mexico were conducted to reveal features of the local milieux which could account for variations in smoking attitudes. Some of the place characteristics that we suggest are linked to local attitudes include economic reliance on the tobacco industry, libertarian political orientations, socio-economic conditions, legislative context and ethnic composition. Given the effects of regional and community attributes on individual attitudes towards smoking, we conclude that public health efforts to control smoking should continue to be targeted beyond individual smokers to the broader social environment.
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