Creating change through public policy is an effective way to make lasting differences in regards to tobacco use for priority populations. Government policies shape and define how communities can address tobacco use, and play a key role in reducing tobacco prevalence. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, like other priority populations, have historically been either ignored by policy makers or been victims of the agendas of others.1 APPEAL therefore seeks to support communities in their efforts to effect change in the policy making process surrounding tobacco and health related issues.
Examples of public policy issues facing priority populations:
- Clean Indoor Air: By now, many people are aware of the health risks associated with secondhand smoke. Exposure may lead to heart disease, lung cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, middle ear disease, and an increase in the frequency and severity of asthma attacks in children, among other things. One way to lessen these risks is for states to implement smoke-free indoor air laws for bars, restaurants, and worksites. In the past, communities with these sorts of laws have seen a 17% reduction in hospital and heart attack admissions. Smoke-free policies already implemented in certain states have also garnered a high level of public support and compliance and, while obviously effective, have not been shown to negatively affect sales or employment in the hospital industry.2 For more information, and for a factsheet discussing states which have and have not enacted smoke-free indoor air laws, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
- Menthol: Menthol and its associated health risks and disparities have been getting a lot of attention, most recently from the Food and Drug Administration. Indeed, in late March, 2010, the new federal advisory board for tobacco regulation (the FDA Scientific Advisory Council) met for the first time and on its agenda was the question of what to do about menthol flavorings in tobacco. Though additional research still needs to be conducted, eliminating this flavoring in tobacco products would likely prevent youth from using menthol-flavored products as “starter products,” and reduce the burden of tobacco related diseases in many priority populations, including the African American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian communities which have largely been shown to smoke menthol flavored tobacco products.3 For more information on this issue and the FDA Scientific Advisory Council, please visit the Food and Drug Administration website.
In addition to working on policy change within the AA and NHPI communities, with mainstream tobacco control organizations and against the tobacco industry, APPEAL also advocates for local, state, and the federal governments to pass policies that address tobacco use and health disparities among priority populations.
1Chen, MS Jr.”A Debunking of the myth of healthy Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders”, American Journal of Health Promotion 01-Mar-1995; 9(4): 261-8.
2Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control, “State Smoke-Free Indoor Air Fact Sheet,” Smoking and Tobacco Use, State Tobacco Activities Tracking & Evaluation System, Publications, 2009, http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/statesystem/Default/Publications.aspx.
3APPEAL to Food and Drug Administration Division of Dockets Management, December 1, 2009.