HomeChinese AmericanFor Asian Americans, Smoking is Linked to Leading Causes of Death

For Asian Americans, Smoking is Linked to Leading Causes of Death

Photo courtesy of Chris Vaughan/Creative Commons 2.0.

For Asian Americans, all the leading causes of death — lung cancer, heart disease and stroke — are linked to cigarettes, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And NextShark reports that Asian culture might be contributing to these deadly smoking habits. Studies have shown that Asian Americans who were less assimilated were more likely to smoke than those who were “more familiar” with American culture.

According to the advocacy group Asian Smoker’s Quitline, “In Asian culture, there is a strong social connection which can carry and expectation of smoking, whether at a family or social gathering, or in a work setting.”

For example, it’s common in Asian culture for business deals to be made while partners “smoke and drink together” and pressure akin to hazing can exist: “There can also be expectations based on age or position in the workplace. Younger or junior-level staff are expected to accept cigarettes offered by elders, or senior staff.”

Rejecting a cigarette can feel more socially isolating than simply kicking an unhealthy habit. And according to Dr. Shu-Hong Zhu, professor of family medicine and public health at UC San Diego, even limiting smoking to social settings only can have serious, life-shortening consequences.

“Every cigarette can be harmful to cardiovascular health. And, even if people smoke only a little, they are still exposing themselves to nicotine, the addictive substance in tobacco,” Dr. Zhu said.

However, the tight-knit bonds that put Asian Americans at greater risk of social smoking might also be the community’s greatest strength in getting people to quit.

Dr. Gary Tedeschi, who is the clinical director for ASQ, said that when one person quits, it can have a domino effect on their community: “They can begin to see that even occasional smoking can get in the way of having the healthiest lifestyle possible. And even more, by quitting altogether they can be a great example for their children, grandchildren or other family members.”

ASQ is a free service completely funded by the CDC to help Asian Americans quit smoking. Based in San Diego, they provide multi-lingual services (Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean) to create tailored plans for individuals and for those eligible, provide a free starter kit of nicotine patches.

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