The Maneater

MU study finds new smoking factors

Although Asian Americans begin smoking later, they are more likely to smoke regularly.

ManSoo Yu, an assistant professor in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences, recently completed a study with his team on specific factors affecting smoking patterns in diverse groups, particularly in Asian-American youth.

Asian-American youth is one of the fastest growing populations in the United States, but little is known about predictors of Asian American adolescent smoking behaviors.

“In order to provide information about smoking cessation and prevention programs, empirical evidence on factors associated with smoking behaviors should be provided,” Yu said in an interview last week.

According to a news release, although Asian Americans begin smoking later in life, they are more likely to smoke regularly and at a higher rate than other ethnic or racial groups.

“Once they smoke, they smoke more heavily,” Yu said.

The factors that cause Asian-American youth to smoke later remained unclear, but Yu said there might be certain factors related to why they started to smoke later.

“I am particularly interested in family influences,” Yu said. “Compared to other youths, Asian-American youth are more influenced by their parents because respecting adults, including parents, is an important culture in many Asian countries.”

Therefore, when the youth live with their parents, they are less likely to smoke.

“However, when they leave out parents to join a college, they may feel independent from parents and think that they can do something that they were not able to do while they stayed at home, such as smoking and drinking,” Yu said.

To approach his research, Yu used several theories to identify potential factors associated with adolescent smoking behaviors. In testing the theories, he also analyzed the Centers for Disease Control's National Youth Tobacco Survey.

Yu found that school attendance and refusal skills are important factors that affect smoking behavior.

According to the news release, youth who frequently were absent from school were more likely to smoke or engage in health-risk behaviors.

Increasing refusal assertiveness can help youth avoid smoking. Programs should focus on teaching refusal skills to all teens because peer smoking is a strong predictor of smoking, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity, according to the news release.

Yu said he mainly focused on smoking behavior of Asian-American youth because minimizing health disparities among different segments of population in terms of race and ethics, gender and social class is one of the key goals of Healthy People 2020, a program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“Consistent with this goal, this study is part of my current research project examining adolescent smoking behaviors among different racial/ethnic groups,” Yu said.

Now, Yu is also studying smoking behaviors among African-American youth, Latino youth and Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander youth.

“Once I complete my current research on identifying similarities and differences in smoking behaviors among these different segments, then I may provide specific information about establishing smoking cessation and prevention programs for adolescent smokers,” Yu said.

He thinks the scientific studies will help practitioners and policy makers create more effective and efficient programs for adolescent smokers.

Among the organizations trying to prevent kids from smoking, The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is a public health advocacy group based in Washington.

“We work at the federal and state level to pass laws and fund programs to reduce smoking rates for both kids and adults,” spokesman Joel Spivak said.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids has four main areas of interest: raising cigarette taxes, passing anti-smoking laws, funding smoking cessation programs and passage of laws prohibiting the marketing of tobacco products to children.

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