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Despite Bloomberg, Asian New Yorkers Smoke On

The mayor's manic anti-smoking blitz hasn't been able to bust cultural bunkers.

Image: 

While smoking rates of other populations
have fallen, Asian New Yorkers stay at a
steady 17%. Photo via

By Bryan Le

03/02/12

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Though most of New York's population is smoke-free, many of the city's Asian residents are still unable to kick the habit. Mayor Bloomberg's media blitz against smoking has helped to drop smoking rates in other groups—from 20.8-12.5% among blacks, and 23.8-15.6% among whites—but Asians' 17% rate hasn't budged. Why? “It's a largely accepted part of our culture,” says one Chinese-American woman interviewed by the New York Times. Nearly 70% of men in China and South Korea smoke. Cigarettes are smoked over business dinners and given as gifts to friends on holidays. And if younger generations of Asian New Yorkers have a problem with smoking, they can't exactly make their parents or grandparents stop. Asking elders to stop smoking is seen as disrespectful, not helpful, says Dr. Donna Shelly, a researcher who has studied New York Asian smoking habits. The New York Health Department is reacting to the problem with targeted Chinese-language ads, Chinese speakers manning the phones at 311, and smoking-related cancer ads on ethnic news channels.

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