Smoking is the inhalation and exhalation of fumes from burning tobacco which is smoked in a pipe, cigar or cigarette (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2004). Tobacco use has become the largest single cause of preventible mortality and morbidity in Australia over the past decade (Siahpush, English, and Powles, 2006). Most research and literature in tobacco control investigates smoking as an individual behaviour but more recent studies have shown how smoking is embedded into the sub-cultural context of people’s lives (Poland, Frohlich, and Haines, 2006). This paper will discuss the history of smoking in Australian culture during the 20th century looking at structural and individual influences on smoking behaviour and incidence. Smoking patterns in different groups across the century will be explored. Social identity theory will be discussed as it was important in the early half of the century and among adolescents in the initiation of smoking behaviour with social capital theory a means of explaining the persistence of smoking in lower socioeconomic groups despite the social stigma associated with the habit.
In Australia smoking is accountable for the greatest burden of disease. Although smoking prevalence has decreased since the 1950’s from 70% of men and 30% of women to currently 20% of both. In 2001 hospitalisations for smoking related disease increased from 126,000 in 1996 to 143,000 in 1998 (AIHW, 2002). Since the medical discovery linking smoking to lung caner in 1945 by Dr Alton Oehsner (Walker, 1984, p. 72) there has been an increase in the knowledge of other serious side effects related to smoking such as the association with increases in various types of cancer, including lung, cervical, bladder and pancreatic cancers, coronary heart disease, stroke, chronic respiratory tract disease and pregnancy related conditions (AIHW, 2004). Due to these disease related outcomes smoking has cost the Australian...