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Some Asians miss anti-smoking message

UC DAVIS (US) — Asian-American smokers are less likely to get non-smoking advice from their doctors, but only because they are unlikely to see a health care provider in the first place.

A new study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion finds less than a third of Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans, and Vietnamese-Americans report receiving quitting advice from their providers in the past year, compared to 46 percent of smokers in the general population.

“Advising a patient to quit smoking is considered the standard of care, and it doubles their chances of quitting,” says Elisa Tong, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of California, Davis.

For the study, Tong analyzed California Tobacco Use surveys of nearly 900 Asian-American smokers. Unlike other surveys, in which Asian-Americans surveyed were fluent in English, the Asian-American population-based surveys were conducted in both English and Asian languages for a more representative accounting.

Individuals were asked about their smoking frequency, whether they saw a health-care provider in the past 12 months and, if so, whether the provider advised the smoker to quit. Other socio-demographic information, such as gender, age, education, income, and ethnicity, also was collected in the surveys.

As it turned out, less than a third (30.5 percent) of all of the smokers surveyed reported having been advised to quit in the past year. This figure is a product of the proportion of smokers who saw a provider in the past year (50.8 percent) and, of these smokers, the proportion who were advised to quit (60.1 percent).

In contrast, for the general population in California, these proportions were 72.1 percent and 63.5 percent respectively, contributing to an overall product of less than half (45.8 percent) of smokers reported having been advised to quit in the past year.

Researchers also learned that of all the smokers who saw a provider, those who had health insurance were more likely to be advised to quit compared to those who did not have health insurance.

“Providers serving these populations may need greater awareness that simply advising smokers to quit is highly effective, and that assistance (counseling and medication) through referral to a telephone quitline does not require health insurance and is free and effective,” the authors write.

Asian-American smokers reported less provider advice to quit if they did not smoke daily, which can also be very dangerous, especially in terms of cardiovascular health, Tong says. “Providers also need to advise all smokers to quit, regardless of smoking frequency. California’s Asian-Americans are more likely than non-Latino whites in California to be light and intermittent smokers.”

The California Smokers’ Helpline (1-800-NO-BUTTS) has Asian-language lines for free counseling and educational materials:  Chinese (1-800-838-8917), Korean (1-800-556-5564) and Vietnamese (1-800-778-8440).
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute, and the California Department of Public Health.

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