Fact Sheet: Asian American & Pacific Islander Adults and Tobacco
Prepared in 1999 by: The Center for Social Gerontology, Ann Arbor, MI
The 1998 Surgeon General's Report and this Fact Sheet include in its definition of Asian American & Pacific Islander persons who trace their background to the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent or the Pacific Islands. [Note: data on smoking behavior has limitations, particularly because there are about 32 different national and racial/ethnic subgroups and nearly 500 languages and dialects among this minority category, and smoking patterns vary greatly among subgroups.]
Prevalence of tobacco use:
- In 1995, 15.3% of adult Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders smoked cigarettes (males and females). Thus, of approximately 6.6 million adult Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in 1995, over 1.0 million were smokers, or about 2.1% of the 47 adult million smokers in the U.S. Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders of all ages (adults and youth) in 1995 made up 3.5% of the overall U.S. population.
- Cigarette smoking among adult Asian American & Pacific Islander males dropped slightly from 32.5% in 1978 to 25.1% in 1995, while smoking among adult females dropped from 14.7% to 5.8%; reflecting the overall smoking decline in America during that period, but running counter to the trend of female smoking rates dropping more slowly than male rates. Overall smoking rates among Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders (men and women combined) are lower than whites and other minority groups; Asian American & Pacific Islander and Hispanic women have the lowest smoking rates of all groups.
- The cigarette smoking rate among older Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders is consistently lower than younger adults; the rate for those aged 55 and over (male and female rates combined) in 1978 was 17.4% and dropped to 9.2% in 1995, whereas smoking rates among adults aged 18 to 54 dropped from about 25.5% in 1978 to about 16.5% in 1995. The percentage of those quitting smoking was highest among those 55 and older, growing from 59.4% in 1978 to 70.2% in 1995.
- Cigar and pipe smoking among adult Asian American & Pacific Islander men in the early 1990's was 2.2% and 2.3% respectively; a cigar rate among the lowest among minority groups and more than twice as low as whites, and a pipe rate lower than any group but Hispanics. Use of chewing tobacco or snuff was 1.2%, versus 6.8% among white men; the lowest rate of any group. Among Asian American & Pacific Islander women, pipe and cigar smoking was negligible.
Health and mortality consequences of tobacco use:
- Virtually all cases of lung cancer are attributable to cigarette smoking. Data on lung cancer among Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders has limitations, due to immigration trends and there being so many racial/ethnic subgroups. It appears that lung cancer rates among men are about half the rate of white males and about 1/3 the rate of African American males. Rates among women appear to be about 1/2 those of both white and African American women.
- Smoking causes cancers of the lung, larynx, mouth, esophagus and bladder, and is a contributing factor for cancers of the pancreas, kidney and cervix. Data specific to Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders is subject to limitations as noted above; incidence and death rates are difficult to determine, but African American rates appear to be the highest of minority populations.
Data in this Fact Sheet has been taken from the following: Tobacco Use Among U.S. Racial/Ethnic Minority Groups: A Report of the Surgeon General, 1998; "Cigarette Smoking & Smoking Cessation Among Older Adults: United States, 1965-94" by C.G. Husten et al in Tobacco Control, Autumn, 1997. "Smoking-Attributable Mortality and Years of Potential Life lost -- U.S., 1984," in MMWR, May 23. 1997. Population Projections of the U.S. by Age, Sex, Race, & Hispanic Origin: 1995-2050, published by the U.S. Census Bureau, 1996.