Health campaigns decrease number of Asian smokers

In efforts to reduce the smoking population, the New York City Health Department launched the annual Nicotine Patch and Gum Program last week. This year, it will step up its appeal to Asian smokers by creating graphic ads in Chinese and offering a membership to Chinese speakers who call 311 to help them quit smoking.
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According to NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, almost every demographic has shown decreases in their smoking population except Asians, primarily Asian men. The department’s Community Health Survey from 2007 showed that Asians contribute to the highest percentage of New York City smokers, at about 76 percent.

The Health Department said it has been running several Chinese-language education campaigns in newspapers and TV for over a decade. They have also placed ads in the Chinese World Journal, Sing Tao, Ming Pao and Epoch Times. The city’s Russian community, a quarter of which smokes, will also be receiving similar attention.

“In the last two years, we have offered an Asian Smokers Quitline to provide quit assistance services in multiple Asian languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Vietnamese,” the New York City Health Department press office said. “For this year’s Nicotine Patch and Gum Program, we are including a Chinese-language line and online enrollment.”

Dee Burton, chair of the department of community health sciences in the School of Public Health at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center, said there are cultural traditions of smoking among men from some Asian countries.

She added that this group is showing interest in quitting smoking and are making attempts to do so.

“I believe the main issue is that so many Asian immigrants to New York City live difficult, isolated and stressful lives and lack the support that is well-known to be needed in quitting smoking and staying off cigarettes,” Burton said.

Stern junior Sgoy Kim said smoking is both a social function and a part of Korea’s culture.

“It’s a way to talk to others ,” Kim said. “People smoke so they don’t feel left out. It’s hard to break the habit.”

Stern freshman Nicole Huang, a non-smoker who grew up in China, said there is no governmental regulation for smoking there. Because no one is stopping them, smokers feel no urge to quit their habit.

“Past advertisements have not been successful,” she said. “Some people may be willing to try it out, but I don’t think it will be effective.”

But Burton said any population of smokers needs outreach and support to quit smoking.

“Community health workers could provide that support in person,” she said. “There is some evidence that proactive cell phone counseling — where the counselor calls the individual, offering support over an extended period of time — could provide the needed outreach and support.”

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