Tobacco Control in Comparative
Perspective: Eight Nations in Search
of an Explanation
Theodore R. Marmor and Evan S. Lieberman
Since the 1960s, governments in economically advanced democratic nations have significantly increased their regulatory control over tobacco. The prevalence of cigarette smoking, as the chapters in this book demonstrate, has diminished in these countries. Factors other than government policy—especially shifts in social norms—have influenced that decline, but those norms have themselves been directly and indirectly influenced by government policies. In short, tobacco consumption has become, in part, a political outcome. Governments have been sites of great conflict over the use of tobacco.
Reflecting on the experience of these eight nations, we are struck by important similarities and differences in the politics of tobacco control. Given the rich national histories presented in this volume, what value do we hope to add by our comparative analysis? Identifying the variation in government control policies is our starting point. Doing so requires us to clarify how we characterize the tobacco policies of particular countries and how we explain why they vary. Government policy is a relatively large and unwieldy subject of analysis, difficult to measure and to compare. In this respect, comparative tobacco-policy analysis is analogous to other forms of cross-national research on public policy, raising a number of longstanding debates within political science and sociology about the advantages and disadvantages of case study, structured comparison, and statistical methods.1
There are solid grounds for believing that the contemporary efforts of industrial democracies to control smoking reflect some common