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  • Jullianne Pham

There Are More Smokers Among Non-English Speaking Vietnamese Men Than the General US Population.

Have you ever noticed when walking by Vietnamese coffee shops, restaurants or cafes, there is a distinct smell of cigarette smoke in the air both indoor and outdoor?

Though in California, we are not allowed to smoke in public spaces and are only allowed to smoke at least 25 feet away from the building many Vietnamese businesses still tolerate smoking due to their clientele, mostly non-English speaking, older Vietnamese men.

According to a study done with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, smoking prevalence remains higher among non-English speaking Vietnamese men than the general population. The study shows Vietnamese men have the highest smoking prevalence of 35.4% among Asian Americans.

Limited English proficiency, lower access to higher education, lower acculturation, and many other familial and socioeconomic factors is correlated to higher smoking rates for Vietnamese American men. The U.S. Census Bureau shows Vietnamese have 70% fewer high school graduates, the second highest poverty rate at 14%, and 55% of the population who immigrated after 1990 spoke English less than “very well."

The lack of access to higher education after high school and the high social acceptance of smoking within the immigrant population leads to a lower level of understanding about smoking-related health risks. In 2008, the World Health Organization shows smoking prevalence has risen to 48%, and many men had little to no quitting intentions. Thus, some effective strategies to promote smoking cessation among Vietnamese American men will address their low intention to quit and poor smoking cessation outcomes.

According to a population based study in California in 2008, it was agreed having children in the household and experiencing smoking-related family conflicts were significantly associated with quitting intentions. Family interaction, marital status and home smoking bans are also some of the few things contributing to smoking cessation, regardless of family conflicts related to smoking. Men who intend to quit long-term tend to have lower education, yet they also agree smoking was harmful to their health, and had many smoking-related family conflicts. Having a quit attempt within the past 12 months is significantly associated with the intention to quit at any time. This population based study showed one-third of Vietnamese men never intended to quit smoking and have no intention of quitting in the next 6 months.

The California Department of Public Health - California Tobacco Control Program shows:

  1. 68% of Vietnamese smokers do not use existing smoking cessation resources.

  2. Only 3% of Vietnamese smokers have access to statewide telephone counseling services, even though the services were free and accessible in Vietnamese.

  3. Family involvement may also facilitate the process of smoking cessation through understanding of the smokers’ ambivalence about quitting.

  4. Appraisal support in decision-making:

  • Providing information about smoking risks and resources

  • Support in finding activities to replace smoking

  • Help with smokers cope with withdrawal symptoms

It is important to promote the use of available smoking cessation resources among Vietnamese men by increasing awareness, cultural acceptability, and perceived effectiveness of these resources.

We hope you will share this story with your loved ones to help them quit smoking.

Notice: “This study was based on data from the largest and only in-language statewide population-based survey focused on Vietnamese adults in the U.S.”

Here are additional resources to assist in promoting smoking cessation:

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Jullianne Pham


With her driving passion of health sciences, Jullianne aims to provide service, research, and education towards Asian-American communities in order to close the gap of health disparities that people of color face. She has worked alongside physicians and surgeons in the San Joaquin County as a Decision Medicine Intern, and has worked closely with the Vietnamese-American community in the Bay Area to raise awareness about unspoken diseases as a Community Health Outreach Intern at the Asian Liver Center of Stanford University. As an aspiring Physician Assistant with a concentrated service within the Asian-American community, Jullianne hopes to discuss and expose the unspoken diseases and health issues that do not create dialogue within the Vietnamese household and community.

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