Big Tobacco and Minorities: Asian American Statistics

Although Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are among the lowest in statistical rates for smoking, it does not stop the efforts of targeted advertising by Big Tobacco.

asian woman smoking cigarette

It’s no big secret that Big Tobacco targets minorities in their marketing campaigns. The so called “menthol wars” has brought about a greater recognition that tobacco companies depict minority individuals in their marketing campaigns, and rely pricing incentives in minority neighborhoods in order to encourage the purchase of their products. Studies have shown that tobacco companies realized that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders presented a new opportunity for targeted ad campaigns, and created documents with strategies to deliberately and intentionally target those individuals.

Rates of Asian American Smokers

Fortunately, according to the American Lung Association, Asian Americans represent the population least likely to smoke. In 2008, only 9.9% of Asian Americans smoked. This is compared to 15% for Hispanic Americans, 22% of non-Hispanic blacks, and closer to 21% for non-Hispanic Caucasians. These numbers vary among Asian Americans originating from differing nations. For instance, Chinese American men are less likely to smoke the longer they live in the US. Those who speak fluent English and have been in the US for several years are also less likely to smoke than those who are new to the country. However, those from Southeastern Asian countries such as Vietnam and China are more likely to smoke overall, than those from other countries. This is especially true for males, as opposed to women.

Tobacco’s Targeting of Asian Americans

Studies sought to determine whether Big Tobacco aimed to target marketing campaigns to Asian Americans. They reviewed documents produced by the tobacco company’s marketing teams and determined that during several years starting in the 80’s, tobacco companies began developing marketing strategies to target Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. These included more specific packaging and breeching the AAPI communities, but also in political lobbying to prevent their marketing campaigns from being thwarted by new regulations.

The Risks of Smoking

Those from developing countries may be less likely to fully understand the dangers of tobacco usage. This makes those coming from these nations more susceptible to tobacco companies’ marketing attempts. As it is for all consumers, tobacco smoke is dangerous to the health of AAPI populations. Smoking causes various health issues, even for those who live a healthy lifestyle. According to the CDC, smoking has been linked to lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and multiple lung conditions and chronic infections. Second-hand smoke also leads to up to 41,000 deaths per year. Third-hand smoke is also a budding threat, as more research has shown that smoke and nicotine residue can lead to additional health complications for months after the smoking has taken place, as residue on drapes, clothes, and furniture can reenter the air over and over again.

Preventing Health Consequences From Smoking

The best way to prevent the issues related to smoking is to avoid cigarette smoke. Those who smoke should quit, and nonsmokers should make a concerted effort to avoid exposure to second and third-hand smoke. This can prove difficult for some, especially those who live or work with smokers. This fact makes smoking cessation all the more important for those who use tobacco products. Prescription medications are available to help, as well as nicotine replacement products which substitute the feel of smoking without any actual smoke.

Published: March 8, 2015


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