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Drinking Smoke
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Tobacco kills 5 million people every year and that number is expected to double by the year 2020. Despite its enormous toll on human health, tobacco has been largely neglected by anthropologists. Drinking Smoke combines an exhaustive search of historical materials on the introduction and spread of tobacco in the Pacific with extensive anthropological accounts of the ways Islanders have incorporated this substance into their lives. The author uses a relatively new concept called a syndemic--the synergistic interaction of two or more afflictions contributing to a greater burden of disease in a population--to focus at once on the health of a community, political and economic structures, and the wider physical and social environment and ultimately provide an in-depth analysis of smoking's negative health impact in Oceania. In Drinking Smoke the idea of a syndemic is applied to the current health crisis in the Pacific, where the number of deaths from coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease continues to rise, and the case is made that smoking tobacco in the form of industrially manufactured cigarettes is the keystone of the contemporary syndemic in Oceania. The author shows how tobacco consumption (particularly cigarette smoking after World War II) has become the central interstitial element of a syndemic that produces most of the morbidity and mortality Pacific Islanders suffer. This syndemic is made up of a bundle of diseases and conditions, a set of historical circumstances and events, and social and health inequities most easily summed up as "poverty." He calls this the tobacco syndemic and argues that smoking is the crucial behavior--the "glue"--holding all of these diseases and conditions together. Drinking Smoke is the first book-length examination of the damaging tobacco syndemic in a specific world region. It is a must-read for scholars and students of anthropology, Pacific studies, history, and economic globalization, as well as for public health practitioners and those working in allied health fields. More broadly the book will appeal to anyone concerned with disease interaction, the social context of disease production, and the full health consequences of the global promotional efforts of Big Tobacco.
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About the Author

Mac Marshall is emeritus professor of anthropology and community and behavioural health at the University of Iowa.

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