UC Davis study asseses impact of smoking in California's Korean and Chinese communities


(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- A UC Davis Cancer Center study of California's Korean and Chinese communities shows that more than one in four Korean men smokes, a rate 46 percent higher than for California men overall, that Korean and Chinese women smoke at higher rates the longer they live in the United States, and that Korean and Chinese children are more likely than California kids overall to be exposed to secondhand smoke at home.

The research, the first to survey tobacco use specifically in California's Korean and Chinese communities, was announced today along with the results of three other studies at a California Department of Health Service's press briefing in Los Angeles.

"Our anti-tobacco efforts need to continue as California's new immigrants are targeted by the tobacco industry with the image that tobacco use is the essence of the 'Western' lifestyle,'' said Moon S. Chen, Jr., associate director of Cancer Disparities and Research at the UC Davis Cancer Center and principal investigator of the Korean and Chinese tobacco-use studies. "California needs to continue to show that living healthy and tobacco-free is the real Western lifestyle."

Other findings:

  • The smoking rate is 7.7 percent for Chinese Californians, 15.3 percent for Korean Californians and 15.4 percent for the state as a whole.
  • Korean and Chinese men smoke at five to seven times the rate of Korean and Chinese women: 27.9 percent of Korean men and 14.4 percent of Chinese men smoke, versus 4.3 percent of Korean women and 2.0 percent of Chinese women. Statewide, 19.1 percent of men and 11.9 percent of women smoke.
  • Korean and Chinese children are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke at home. While 76.9 percent of all California residents report living in a smoke-free household, just 54 percent of Korean Californians and 61.4 percent of Chinese Californians ban smoking at home.
  • Among Korean and Chinese men, smoking rates drop with increasing acculturation; the reverse is true for Korean and Chinese women.
  • Among Korean Californian women, 2.6 percent of those with limited English-language proficiency smoke, versus 11.7 percent of those who speak English fluently. Among Chinese Californian women, 1.3 percent of those with the lowest English proficiency smoke versus 4.7 percent of those with fluent English.

The research was conducted between 2003 and 2004 on behalf of the Tobacco Control Section of the California Department of Health Services. The Strategic Research Group conducted telephone surveys in English or Korean or Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Fukinese, Shanghaiese, Taiwanese and Toyshanese).

Findings from three other studies that looked at tobacco use among Asian Indian Californians, active military stationed in California, and California's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities were also presented at the briefing.

The Asian Indian study, conducted by researchers at UCLA, found low smoking rates for men (8.7 percent) and women (1.9 percent). Those born in westernized countries were nearly four times more likely to have used tobacco compared to those born in a non-westernized country.

Chen is one of the nation's foremost experts on the cancer burden of ethnic minorities. He heads a $5.5 million, National Cancer Institute-funded project to eliminate cancer disparities among Asian Americans. The California Department of Health Services is a partner in the project, known as AANCART (for Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training).

UC Davis Cancer Center, the nation's 61st National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, serves inland Northern California and California's Central Valley, a region the size of Pennsylvania.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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