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Life histories: Chinese-American elders' smoking encounters

Institution: Stanford University
Investigator(s): Matthew Kohrman, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2000 (Cycle 9) Grant #: 9IT-0066 Award: $17,146
Subject Area: Epidemiology
Award Type: Inno Dev & Exp Awards (IDEAS)

Initial Award Abstract
There are two general aims of the proposed research. The first is to use qualitative anthropological methods to interview a small number of elderly Californians of Chinese descent about their smoking histories in order to understand better the causes and nature of their tobacco usage and responsiveness to tobacco-risk information. During these interviews, particular attention will be placed on investigating what might be characterized as two sides of the same coin: (a) how for Americans of Chinese ancestry smoking has operated as a highly gendered feature of their identity formation; and (b) how for particularly male members of this sample group experiences of identity development have contributed to ways such men have understood and responded to tobacco, tobacco advertising, and tobacco-risks. In order to understand how these two sides of the coin have been dialectically framed, special focus will be placed on life course features shaping informants’ personal trajectories. The second broad aim of this research is to produce journal articles and a project report. It is hoped that these written products will stimulate academic, public health and community-based organizations to develop more culturally- and gender-attuned smoking prevention/cessation programs.

For several reasons understanding Chinese-Americans’ tobacco experiences, particularly among adult men, is a particularly important agendum for the state of California’s anti-tobacco efforts. First, according to the 1990-91 Screener Survey of Californian Asian and Pacific Islander Americans (APIA), 11 percent of persons claiming Chinese ancestry smoke. Second, among the APIA subgroups that the Screener study examined, persons of Chinese ancestry have the widest male-female differential of tobacco use, with four times as many Chinese-American men smoking than women. Third, according to 1990 census data, California has more persons claiming Chinese ancestry than any US state. Fourth, the fastest growing source of new immigrants to the United States in general and California specifically is Asia and the Pacific Islands. Fifth, while several statistical studies about Chinese-American smoking patterns have been conducted and some Chinese-American anti-smoking efforts developed by community-based organizations, sparse qualitative research on smoking among Chinese Americans has yet been undertaken.