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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

March 18, 2005

Written by C.N.

Smoking Among Vietnamese & Vietnamese Americans

The Pacific News Service has a very interesting article that describes the epidemic of smoking among men in Viet Nam and its inevitable health consequences. At the same time, the article also explains that one of the most successful anti-smoking campaigns waged in the U.S. was to reduce smoking among Vietnamese Americans. Some excerpts:

Taking and offering cigarettes is how friends and associates greet each other. It’s like a handshake. If you don’t shake hands, don’t expect the natives to be friendly. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 70 percent of Vietnamese men and 5 percent of women light up regularly. . . As it is, Vietnam is now paying dearly for its bad habit. Smoking kills more than 40,000 people each year, and the number is increasing, fast.

The WHO warns that possibly 10 percent of Vietnam’s 84 million population, or more than 8 million people, will die early of smoking. Statistics show that nicotine addiction is more prevalent in Asia than anywhere else. Asian males consume virtually half of the world’s cigarettes. Vietnamese men, of course, contribute to the trend, with highest smoking prevalence rate for men in the world. . .

Ironically, it’s in California where many Vietnamese immigrants quit smoking. One of the most effective anti-smoking campaign ever waged among Southeast Asian refugees here was done by Suc Khoe La Vang, the Vietnamese Community Health Promotion Project out of University of California in San Francisco. “Up to 50 percent of the participants quit in the first year,” one doctor in San Jose boasted about the program.

He showed films, charts and documents on how smoking affects one’s health and, more important, the health of one’s family. One man cried and said he didn’t know secondary smoke was killing his kids, or at least making them less smart, the doctor reported. “He found the strength to quit,” the doctor said.

The success of the anti-smoking campaign among Vietnamese Americans is a great example of how to combine cultural traditions and contemporary circumstances to strengthen communities. In this case, the health researchers were able to apply the traditional “masculine” concern of protecting the family with the goal of getting men to quit smoking. This was also a strategy that we tried at APICHA to educate Asian Americans about HIV/AIDS — to emphasize that in order to protect your family and the community against disease, you need to make wise choices and use protection.

Hopefully this kind of strategy that builds on community and cultural traditions to achieve modern-day goals will become more common and become incorporated into contemporary Asian American communities.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Smoking Among Vietnamese & Vietnamese Americans" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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