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Research Review

Asian Smokers Use Quitlines

Telephone counseling programs for smoking cessation, popularly known as “quitlines,” are an increasingly common way for smokers to quit. However, most of them provide counseling services in English and Spanish only. Since 1993, the California Smokers’ Helpline has been counseling smokers in Chinese (both Mandarin and Cantonese dialects), Korean, and Vietnamese, in addition to English and Spanish.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, led by Shu-Hong Zhu, PhD, professor of family and preventative medicine, examined more than 15 years of data from the California Smokers’ Helpline and compared the use of Asian-language services by Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese callers to the use of English-language services by white callers. Their findings will appear in The American Journal of Public Health.

“Many people mistakenly believe that Asians won’t call such a service,” says Zhu. “Yet California’s experience shows just the opposite. Asian-language speakers are actively using the service.”

Between 1993 and 2008, the helpline received 22,061 calls from Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese individuals on its Asian-language lines, and 259,979 calls from whites on its English line. The researchers estimated the number of smokers in each group in California using data from the California Health Interview Surveys, and then put the population estimates and the helpline data together to compute quitline usage rates for each group. They found that smokers speaking Asian languages were just as likely to use the quitline as English-speaking whites were, and that California’s antismoking media campaign, which appears in multiple languages, was the main driver of Asian calls.

“The mass media campaign not only raises smokers’ awareness of the importance of quitting, but in many cases motivates their nonsmoking family members to call the quitline on their behalf,” Zhu says. “This suggests that media promotion of a language-specific cessation service can help mobilize the community to help smokers quit. We hope this study will encourage other state quitlines to offer Asian-language counseling to help address disparities in access to effective cessation services.”

— Source: University of California, San Diego Health Sciences