How Big Tobacco Targets AAPI Women

submitted by Karen Rezai
Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (USA - CA)

Here's a little about the targeting of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women by the tobacco industry here in the U.S.

AAPI women, especially younger women, are definitely being targeted by the tobacco industry here. Since rates of tobacco use of AAPI women here in the U.S. are traditionally lower than AAPI males, they are seen as an area of potential "growth" for the industry. Unfortunately, the industry is also very adept are incorporating culture into their marketing strategies. For example, the Virginia Slims "Find Your Voice" campaign ads featured an Asian woman with heavy face paint and silk robes. They message was that women can become acculturated by smoking, but also maintain "traditional" parts of their heritage.

APPEAL included some information on AAPI women and smoking in our Educational Kit on Tobacco Relevancy in AAPI communities. I'm am including what we wrote here below:

"Young women are America's fastest growing population of smokers. Between 1960 and 1980, lung cancer death rates among women smokers soared 600%, surpassing breast cancer mortality rates.

Asian American and Pacific Islander women aand girls are turning out to be the tobacco industry's new target. Tobacco ads developed to hook AAPI women and girls reinforce a glamorous Western allure tied to smoking cigarettes. One example is tennis star Michael Chang, who has played in tobacco sponsored tournaments. He is also a teen idol among AAPI girls, and a symbol of athletic influence and Western lifestyle. Cigarette ads and brands, such as Virginia Slims and Newport Lights, also associate smoking with thinness, sex appeal, empowerment, and an escape from the multiple demands placed on AAPI women by their families and society.

In some AAPI communities, the stigma against women who smoke is so great that data most likely underreports AAPI female smoking rates, making this new group of smokers unreachable by health education efforts. For example, in Korean communities both in Korea and in the U.S., women and girls frequently are found smoking only within the privacy of second-floor coffee-houses, and rarely admit to their habit.

AAPI women also occupy a higher proportion of service-industry jobs and are less able to control the smoke in their environment at home and at work. Waitresses are four times as likely to die from lung cancer and 2.5 times as likely to die from heart disease compared to other women.

Finally, since many AAPI males smoke, their spouses and families are also impacted. AAPI women with spouses who smoke are at an increased risk for disease and death resulting from secondhand smoke."

-From "Making Tobacco Relevant for Asian American and Pacific Islander Communities., Winter 2000, Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment and Leadership.