Despite Bloomberg, Asian New Yorkers Smoke On

Despite Bloomberg, Asian New Yorkers Smoke On

By Bryan Le 03/02/12

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

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

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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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter

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