Some Asian-American women affected differently by non-smoking rules and policies, research shows

Asian women © iStockphoto
A recent study notes that policies alone are not enough to reduce the dangers of tobacco-smoke exposure among some Asian-American women.

Smoke-free policies and non-smoking rules are not always effective among Asian American women, a majority of which don’t smoke but may be at risk for second-hand smoke exposure, a recent study has found.

UC Davis researcher Elisa Tong, an assistant professor of internal medicine, found that while California has a long-standing history of smoke-free social norms and regulations, their effectiveness in the Asian-American communities depends largely upon socioeconomic status.

Tong’s study, “Smoke-Free Policies Among Asian-American Women: Comparisons by Education Status,” was recently published in a special supplement of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine funded by the National Cancer Institute and American Legacy Foundation, which was dedicated to the unintended consequences of tobacco control policies in women of low socioeconomic status.

Photo of resercher Elisa Tong © 2009 UC Regents“Asians are half of the world’s smokers, but this is a population that hasn’t been looked at traditionally in the U.S. because it is difficult to study.”
— Elisa Tong

In her work, Tong acknowledged that California has significantly decreased racial, ethnic and educational disparities in terms of smoke-free policies for indoor workplaces and non-smoking rules established in households. But she wanted to know specifically how Asian-American women were faring.

“Asians are half of the world’s smokers,” she said. “But this is a population that hasn’t been looked at traditionally in the U.S. because it is difficult to study.”

Tong and her colleagues used the California Tobacco Use Surveys for Chinese Americans and Korean Americans, which were conducted in 2003 by senior author Moon Chen, UC Davis professor of medicine and principal investigator of the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training. Tong analyzed the data in 2008 to compare women with lower- and higher-education status in terms of their adoption and enforcement of smoke-free policies and rules.

UC Davis Cancer Center

UC Davis Cancer Center is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center that cares for 9,000 adults and children with cancer each year from throughout the Central Valley and inland Northern California. Its Outreach Research and Education Program works to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in cancer region-wide.

Tong found that regardless of educational status, most respondents said that they prohibit smoking in their homes and indoor workplaces, and that they understand the dangers of exposure to second-hand smoke. But lower-educated women were more likely than their higher-educated counterparts to acknowledge anyone smoking in their home or having recently been exposed to smoke at their indoor workplace.

“We learned that almost all women know second-hand smoke is bad for you, so that means that having policies is not enough,” Tong said. “There has to be an additional component. Maybe this is where a health-care provider can step in and be an advocate for these women.”