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Young smokers' narratives : public health, disadvantage and structural violence

Lewis, S.; Russell, A.

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S. Lewis


This research article on youth smoking in disadvantaged communities is the product of a qualitative study to understand the issues faced by young smokers – and those trying not to be smokers – in such communities. Environmental factors and peer influence are widely recognised influences on adolescents’ take-up and continuation of smoking but less is known about whether, what, how and why circumstances in disadvantaged communities affect young people’s pathways towards and away from smoking. Focusing on a youth club in a disadvantaged neighbourhood in the North East of England, narratives about young people’s relationships with tobacco provide an ethnographically rich, thick description of the experiences of a group that is too often easily ignored. We argue that young people are caught between competing domains that together exert a form of structural violence. These are, first, the economic and political structures that have overseen de-industrialisation; second, the media structures that create desire for what they cannot afford; third the structures of international organised crime that conspire to provide them with the means to consume from which ‘legitimate’ structures effectively exclude them. Rather than expecting young people to comply with the health imperative, interventions need to bridge issues of agency and critical consciousness, which structural violence otherwise insidiously erodes.


Lewis, S., & Russell, A. (2013). Young smokers' narratives : public health, disadvantage and structural violence. Sociology of Health & Illness, 53(3), 746-760.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Nov 12, 2012
Publication Date Jun 1, 2013
Deposit Date Apr 20, 2012
Publicly Available Date Jun 26, 2017
Journal Sociology of Health & Illness
Print ISSN 0141-9889
Electronic ISSN 1467-9566
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 53
Issue 3
Pages 746-760
Keywords Smoking, Young people, Structural violence, Tobacco control, Thick description.


Accepted Journal Article (741 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is the accepted version of the following article: Lewis, S. and Russell, A. (2013) 'Young smokers' narratives : public health, disadvantage and structural violence.', Sociology of health and illness., 53(3): 746-760, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.

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