260139 'Choking for a smoke': The embodiment of working class history in the life stories of smokers in an ex-mining village in the North East of England

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frances Thirlway, BA MSc LLB , Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
Despite moves towards considering the social context of smoking, public health has little understanding of smoking and other health behaviours in relation to the political and industrial history of place. I carried out an ethnographic study of a stigmatised white working class former coal-mining village in North Eastern England with high levels of smoking, deprivation and ill health. The study included eight months of participant observation in a Working Men's Club, the recording of the life story narratives of 25 residents (each with a 20-years-plus smoking history), extensive contact with and research into four generations of local families, as well as documentary and historical research into the industrial and political background of the village and the region. In this presentation, I examine the participants' embodied experience of smoking and social class, with reference to (1) the macro-level of the post-industrial history of the village, including loss of jobs, status, housing, population and political voice; (2) the meso-level of experience and understanding of health and illness, with particular reference to ex-miners' occupational exposures and compensation claims, respiratory disease and tobacco use; (3) the micro-level of social class embodied in individual lives through the lived emotions of anger, shame and frustration. Parallels with other ex-coalfield communities (including Appalachia) are drawn, and implications for public health policy and practice are highlighted.

Learning Areas:
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the impact of industrial decline and loss of political voice on health and health inequalities 2. Discuss the embodied experience of social class and its impact on health status

Keywords: Smoking, Social Class

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a doctoral student in Anthropology and I carried out the research set out in this presentation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.