Political Science

[en] Smoking Bans as a Gendered Issue

Secondhand Smoke Policies are Concerns specific to Women.

There are policies which are evidently gendered, like reproductive rights. Identifying  smoking bans – or protection against secondhand smoke – as a gendered issue, on the contrary, requires argumentation and evidence. This is what a friend of mine and classmate at the University of Zurich did together with me in the context of an assignment for a course on public choice.

Women have more material reasons than men for asking protection from passive smoking:

  • Women are biologically more vulnerable to secondhand smoke.
  • A pregnant woman is not only concerned about the risk of secondhand smoke for her, but also for the child she bears.
  • Women are more exposed to secondhand smoke at the workplace than men, because of the composition of the affected workforce, for example workers in the foodservice sector or flight attendants.

Women on average have political preferences more compatible with smoking bans than men:

  • The “social women” frames conflicts as conflicting responsibilities, whereas the “economic man” sees competing rights.
  • She values community and attachment, he prefers autonomy and liberty.
  • Women are more skeptical about free markets, and less so about state intervention.

Women do actually approve of smoking bans more than men:

  • Surveys on opinions towards smoking ban show statistically significant differences across genders.
  • Swiss voters had one of the biggest gender gaps on a proposition about prevention of tobacco consumption.

The articulated arguments, as well as all references, are in our text:
Women Preferences and Smoking Bans in the Swiss Federal State*

Cigarettes ad and womean cooking

On a more romantic note: When thinking about the societal transformation that we incurred in the last decades – say from the 50’s to now – or just comparing old movies with new ones, there are at least two trends we may notice:

  • The position of women in society has changed, even if gender equality has not been achieved, women are no second class citizens any longer.
  • Smoking is, on the contrary, losing status continually, offering cigarettes is no act of courtesy any more.

Is there a relationship between this two trends?

*This text actually presents a research question concerning the gender gap on smoking bans in the particular case of Switzerland, which is helpful because of its federalist system and its direct democratic tools. The main idea of smoke as a gendered issue was by my friend, but we developed the idea together (authors named in the document).

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