A Chicago-based health and social service agency that works with the city’s Asian community plans to announce Thursday a new effort to get more Asians to stop smoking OK. Asian Human Services has implemented smoking-cessation workshops to counsel those trying to quit and has launched a media campaign to teach young people to identify tobacco marketing in stores, said Abha Pandya, the agency’s chief executive officer.
“A lot of young people and women are being targeted in advertisements and overt kinds of outreach toward them, which is very worrying,” Pandya said. “This is an effort that we hope can have some impact.”
Asian Human Services’ initiative is part of a two-year, $11.5 million Chicago Tobacco Prevention Project, a cooperative initiative between the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago to bring down the smoking rate in Chicago. Funding for the project was provided by a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Chicago that have some of the higher smoking rates,” said Joel Africk, president of the Respiratory Health Association. “We believe that by addressing the needs of those particular populations, you can bring down the overall smoking rate in the city.”
Part of that approach includes a more focused attempt at conveying the smoking cessation message within more ethnically concentrated neighborhoods, said Harold Wimmer, president of the American Lung Association in Illinois — Greater Chicago.
“One of the challenges that we’re trying to meet is to make sure that we’re sending the right messages and getting the right information to these cultures,” Wimmer said.
Nationally, the overall smoking rate among Asian-Americans remained low when compared with the national average and with other ethnic groups.
According to 2009 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12 percent of Asian-American adults smoked, while the U.S. average was about 20 percent. The rate was 21.3 percent among African-Americans, 14.5 percent for Hispanics, 22.1 percent for whites and 23.2 percent for Native Americans.
In Illinois, Wimmer said, the smoking rate among Asian-American adults was around 18 percent, slightly below the state average of 21 percent.
But overall figures do not tell the whole story because smoking rates have remained high among certain Asian subgroups, said Jing Zhang, community health program director for Asian Human Services.
“In some subgroups, tobacco use is a very serious problem, such as (among) the Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodian, as well as Korean,” Zhang said.
Such trends, Wimmer said, were why the American Lung Association expanded its services to offer translations in 92 languages for those seeking counseling on how to quit.
The American Lung Association runs the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Illinois Tobacco Quitline.
Despite such resources, Africk said, the challenge remains to convey the stop-smoking message in areas with the most need, a challenge he said agencies such as Asian Human Services can help overcome.
“Respiratory Health Association knows how to help people quit smoking,” Africk said. “Some of these groups know much better how to deal with their substance-abuse populations. By giving them a grant, they already have the knowledge of how to deal with that community, and we can kind of tailor our approach to take advantage of their presence and familiarity with that community.”