Socially and Spatially Differentiated Tobacco Consumption during the Nanjing Decade, 1927–1937

Carol Benedict

in Golden-Silk Smoke

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780520262775
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948563 | DOI:
Socially and Spatially Differentiated Tobacco Consumption during the Nanjing Decade, 1927–1937

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By 1927, as the Nanjing Decade began, China's cigarette industry was well established. Even as the fortunes of individual companies rose and fell, consumer demand for cigarettes only continued to increase. The Chinese cigarette market, whether supplied by transnational tobacco companies, Chinese-owned mechanized firms, or localized hand-rolling workshops, expanded spectacularly between 1900 and 1937. The ready availability of cigarettes in most areas of the country encouraged many Chinese smokers to abandon snuff and pipe tobacco in favor of rolled tobacco products. In the long run, after the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, cigarettes displaced other forms of tobacco almost entirely. In the short term, however, at least through the 1930s, the introduction of branded proprietary cigarettes did not immediately transform the socially differentiated patterns of tobacco consumption evident under the Qing period. This chapter outlines the spatial and socioeconomic contours of tobacco consumption and smoking habits during the Nanjing Decade, focusing on social stratification with respect to tobacco use in three different localities: industrial Shanghai, non-industrial Beijing, and rural Dingxian (Hebei).

Keywords: China; tobacco; smoking; cigarettes; consumption; Nanjing Decade; social stratification; Shanghai; Beijing; Dingxian

Chapter.  12683 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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