Smoking Patterns of Asian-American Youth in California and Their Relationship with Acculturation

Document Type



Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date



Mental and Social Health | Multicultural Psychology | Race and Ethnicity | Substance Abuse and Addiction


Purpose: To examine patterns of smoking behavior among subgroups of Asian-American youth in California and their relationship with acculturation status.

Methods: Data were from the 1990–1996 California Tobacco Survey and the California Youth Tobacco Survey, which assessed smoking-related attitudes and behaviors among California youth in grades 7–12. Among the 20,482 respondents, 1,810 were Asian-Americans. Variables assessed included lifetime smoking prevalence, 30-day smoking prevalence, and age of smoking onset. Acculturation status was assessed with measures of English usage, language spoken at home, and age at immigration to the United States.

Results: Of the 1,810 Asian-Americans (52% male), 19% were Chinese, 33% Filipino, 8% Japanese, 13% Korean, and 26% other Asian-Americans. Lifetime smoking prevalence was 16.1% for Asians and 26.1% for non-Asians. The 30-day smoking rate was 6.9% for Asians and 14.2% for non-Asians. Subgroup-specific analyses revealed differences in lifetime smoking prevalence (18.9% for Filipinos, 17.3% for Japanese, 16.3 % for Koreans, 11.0% for Chinese, and 13.7% for other Asian-Americans) and 30-day smoking rate (8.6% for Filipinos, 8.3% for Koreans, 7.4% for Japanese, 2.8% for Chinese, and 7.2% for other Asian-Americans). Gender differences in lifetime smoking prevalence varied by Asian subgroup; smoking prevalence was higher among males than among females for Chinese and Koreans, but smoking prevalence was higher among females than among males for Japanese and other Asians. The average age of smoking onset was 12.9 years for Asians and 12.8 years for non-Asians. Age of smoking onset differed among Asian-American subgroups but did not differ by gender. In addition, smoking behaviors of the Asian respondents were significantly associated with their acculturation status.

Conclusions: Asian-American youth have relatively lower smoking rates and later age of smoking onset than non-Asian youth in California. In addition, subgroups of Asian-American youth vary widely in their smoking behavior. High levels of acculturation among Asian-American youth are associated with higher smoking prevalence rates and earlier age of smoking onset. Society for Adolescent Health, 1998

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© 1999 Society for Adolescent Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc.