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Smoking Quitlines Are Popular, But Asian Services Lacking


Many people who are trying to quit smoking turn to smoking quitlines, free telephone counseling programs that are available in every state. Yet Asians who want to avail themselves of smoking quitlines will find that counseling services are offered in English and Spanish only. Only one state, California, has services in multiple Asian languages.

According to 2010 smoking statistics for the United States, 21.4 percent of all white adults, 19.8 percent of all black adults, 13.3 percent of all Hispanic adults, and 9.6 of all Asian adults smoke. The figures in all of these groups have declined in recent years, which is an encouraging sign. Part of the effort to quit smoking involves the use of quitlines, which are offered through Smokefree.gov and the National Cancer Institute.

Non-English speaking smokers who want to get help from a quitline often cannot find a counselor who speaks their language. Although all the quitlines in the United States offer counseling in both English and Spanish, only California provides help in Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese. Other states currently do not have their own Asian-language speaking counselors.

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A recent review of more than 15 years of data from the California Smokers’ Helpline was performed by investigators at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine. Shu-Hong Zhu, PhD, head of the study and professor of family and preventive medicine noted that despite popular belief that Asians do not call smoking quitlines, Asian-language speakers were just as likely to use the service as were Caucasians.

The investigators also discovered that the state’s anti-smoking advertising campaign was the main stimulus for Asians to call the quitline. Authors of the study believe this indicates that language-specific messages are effective in motivating Asian smokers to call quitlines and to try to stop smoking. They hope other states will offer Asian-language counseling on their quitlines.

To access a quitline in your state, call 1-800-QUITNOW and you will be connected with counseling and information about quitting smoking in your state. Individuals can also speak with a National Cancer Institute smoking cessation counselor (English and Spanish) by calling 1-877-44U-QUIT Monday through Friday 8AM to 8PM Eastern time.

A change is already underway. Beginning in January 2010, Hawaii, Colorado, and California formed a multi-state quitline for Asian-language smokers. Asian counselors in California now answer calls from all states, and each state informs the people in its Asian communities about this service.

University of California, San Diego Health Sciences