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Tobacco Culture

Tobacco Culture

Quiet buildings and closed faculty offices don’t mean that nothing is happening on campus in the summer. For many faculty, summer is vital time for research. Trish Starks, associate professor of history, is spending some time in the state archives in Moscow this summer, working on a book, Cigarettes and Soviets: Tobacco Culture in Twentieth Century Russia. Her past research into public health campaigns in the Soviet Union led to her first book, BodySoviet002, published in 2008 by the University of Wisconsin Press.RS12004_8534_Trish_Starks-3

Her summer research trip is being funded by the Fulbright College for Arts and Sciences Summer Research Grant and from global campus funds distributed by the history department. Previously she received research funding for the work from a Collaborative Research Fellowship from NEH-NCEEER (that’s National Endowment for the Humanities and National Council for Eurasian and East European Research) and the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Here’s what she writes from Moscow:

“This is a particularly exciting time to be researching tobacco cessation in Russia because President Putin has been pushing an aggressive public health campaign aimed at reducing the country’s smoking and tackling the epidemic of cardio-vascular disease, in particular. The World Health Organization recognizes Russia has having the highest rate of tobacco use in the world. Almost 44 million adults smoke — that breaks down to 60% of men and 22% of women. To face down that daunting public health crisis, president Putin signed into law a ban on smoking in all restaurants and hotels that went into effect June 1. Large fines are being levied for breaking the new law, and on my outings I have noticed a remarkable compliance.

“I am excited to be able to see first-hand the most current attempts to stop smoking in Russia, even as I research those of the past. In the archives, I am finding a wealth of materials from Russia’s cessationist campaigns from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth. It is amazing to see the commonalities of these appeals – particularly in regards to the anxieties from authorities over youth and women’s smoking. Just yesterday, I found a 1903 pamphlet — Quit Smoking! — aimed at stamping out smoking by women and children over concerns that it was weakening the nation as a whole. The concerns of today echo in the appeals of the past.”

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