New York City targets smoking Chinese men in cancer ad campaign

The New York City (NYC) health department has launched a public service ad campaign aimed specifically at Chinese men, who in that locality smoke at much higher rates than men or women from any other ethnic group.

Smoking and lung cancer

A study published last year found that smoking causes 10% of deaths worldwide, and even more in China. “The negative effects of smoking extend well beyond individual and population health as billions of dollars in lost productivity and health-care expenditure are related to smoking every year.”

Reflecting a global trend, Chinese men in New York City smoke at much higher rates than men or women from any other ethnic group. Smoking rates among Asian men in New York City have risen, even as smoking has declined among other ethnic groups there. Not surprisingly, deaths from lung cancer among Asian men in New York City have increased 70% in the last 15 years.

A health department study published earlier this year found that 23% of Asians in New York City smoked, versus only 18% of whites, 17% of Hispanics and 14% of blacks.  Chinese men are New York City’s heaviest smokers at 27%, while only 4% of the city’s Asian women smoke.

One major factor influencing smoking rates among Chinese men in New York City is that so many are foreign-born, and still adhere to cultural norms from China.

Smoking in China

A 2015 study published in the Lancet found that Chinese men smoke one third of all the cigarettes in the world, and that by the year 2050, three million of them will die each year of smoking-related causes.

Despite this alarming projection, anti-smoking efforts are not well supported in China, where the state-owned Chinese National Tobacco Corporation generates huge government revenues.

Back in the United States, many Chinese residents have been precluded by language barriers from taking advantage of New York City’s generous anti-smoking programs, which offer local smokers free nicotine patches and gum. Thus, New York City’s new Mandarin ad campaign is a breath of fresh air, as is the availability of Mandarin speakers at the national Asian Smokers’ Quitline featured in the ad.

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