Anti-smoking info campaign targets minorities

A statewide anti-smoking campaign aimed at minorities and those in poverty that highlights the dangers of second-hand smoke has begun.

Dubbed “Everybody Smokes When Anybody Smokes,” the campaign will use radio, bus and billboard advertisements to get the message across. And local anti-smoking advocates say they hope it will bolster their ongoing efforts to reach into minority communities to underscore the dangers of smoking.

“There are definitely certain groups that are impacted in different ways,” said Mandy Myszka, public health educator for the Marathon County Health Department. “For instance, the lower socio-economic population, the tobacco companies really target them specifically. They can offer them free tobacco products to get them started, for instance.”

The state campaign — promoted by the Wisconsin Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, a coalition of community anti-smoking activists and the state Department of Health Services — will use minority spokespeople to help make the connection with minority groups. For example, Blia Lor, a Hmong woman from Milwaukee, will be featured on billboards.

Myszka said her department has worked with the Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association to take an anti-smoking message to the Hmong community.

There have been anti-smoking workshops, and the subject has been outlined on Hmong radio shows, said Peter Yang, executive director of the Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association.

“We don’t see a lot of older Hmong smoking,” Yang said. “But we’re seeing more of the younger generation smoking. … I think they do like their peers, and it depends on who their peers are.”

That’s how John Vang, 19, of Wausau started smoking. He started when he was 16 “because I had friends who smoked.”

Now he’s cutting back on his habit, and he’d like to quit, “but it’s hard.”

He thinks putting a Hmong face on an anti-smoking advertisement might make some Hmong be “more apt to stop and look at it.” Whether it will weigh on anybody’s choice to smoke, he’s not so sure.

Vang’s already aware of second-hand smoke dangers, and he doesn’t smoke in front of his younger brother and sisters. He counsels them “not to try it.”

The “Everybody Smokes When Anybody Smokes” program will help the Hmong association with its anti-smoking efforts, Yang said, especially by using Hmong spokespeople.

“I think it will definitely bring more awareness in the community,” he said. “Hopefully, that will make people think twice about the long-term impact of smoking.”


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