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The determinants of college smoking

Institution: University of Southern California
Investigator(s): Fan-Ni Hsia,
Award Cycle: 2002 (Cycle 11) Grant #: 11DT-0161 Award: $48,782
Subject Area: Epidemiology
Award Type: Dissertation Awards

Initial Award Abstract
The rates of college smoking among Asian-American students are on the rise in California. Because tobacco use poses a major health risk to them and contributes to 7 of 10 leading causes of death among Asian Americans, it is needed to make effort to understand why students are taking up smoking and what triggers them to start and continue smoking. Based on this understanding, effective prevention programs can be further designed for this population in order to successfully prevent smoking. One of the issues that must be taken into account in studying Asian Americans is acculturation--the process of becoming adapted to American culture. Research shows that Asian-American youths who are less acculturated to American culture have lower smoking rates than those who are more acculturated to American culture. It is suggested that the loss of certain native cultural values or cultural norms may be an important factor that leads to increased risk of smoking. However, the nature of these values or meanings is unknown. This study proposes an in-depth investigation of factors that motivate students to smoke, which Asian cultural values and meanings of smoking might contribute to lower smoking prevalence, and how these meanings and values are lost or transformed during the process of acculturation. Findings from this study will contribute not only to an understanding of the determinants of smoking among Asian Americans, but also to the future development of effective smoking interventions for Asian Americans different levels of acculturation.

Studies have found that smoking may take on meanings or functions that motivate people to start or continue smoking. For example, smoking might mean ‘proper’, ‘right’, and ‘polite’ in several Chinese societies. In order to be right and polite, people conform themselves to smoking behaviors even when they know that smoking is harmful to their health. Thus, it is hypothesized that meanings of smoking play a role that determines smoking behaviors among Asian Americans. Moreover, studies indicate that lower level of self-esteem is associated with higher smoking rates among American youths. Therefore, it is also expected that self-esteem will be associated with smoking among Asian-American college students. Finally, because smoking rates differ across college types, acculturation level, and between genders, it is expected that the way that meanings of smoking, self-esteem influence smoking will differ across college types, acculturation level, and between men and women.

Three colleges will be invited to participate in this study. They are a 4-year private university, a 4-year public university, and a 2-year community college. Two methods will be used to achieve the aims if this study. The first method is individual interview. 48 individual interviews will be conducted with Chinese- and Taiwanese Americans, reflecting the largest Asian group in California. The interviews will help us to explore cultural meanings of smoking held by different gender and acculturation level. The second method is survey research. A total of 1200 surveys will be distributed to the three campuses in order to test the hypotheses of this study. Data gathered from individual interviews and surveys will be used to develop guidelines of college smoking intervention for Asian-Americans.

This study will try to understand and compare the unique factors and forces that shape tobaccco use among Asian Americans, as well as the role that acculturation plays in college smoking in these populations. In addition, this study will work on the development of guidelines for effective intervention programs targeting Asian Americans and will contribute to the ability to provide much needed effective smoking orevention programs to Asian American college students. All of these investigations are encouraged by TRDRP and fit nicely into the research priorities of the TRDRP.