Introduction: Asian Americans, along with other ethnic minorities, have been described to be more likely than Whites to be light and intermittent smokers. Characterizing Asian American smoking behavior accurately on a population level requires oversampling groups of different national origin and including non-English-speaking participants.
Methods: We analyzed the California Health Interview Survey to compare moderate/heavy (> or =10 cigarettes/day), light (0-9 cigarettes/day), and intermittent (not daily) smoking patterns in Asian Americans with those of Whites. We also examined whether social and demographic factors that had been associated with Asian American smoking prevalence also were associated with light and intermittent smoking patterns in each of the national origin groups.
Results: Most Asian American smokers were more likely to be light and intermittent smokers (range = 36.6%-61.5% for men and 29.9%-81.5% for women) compared with Whites, with lower mean cigarette consumption. Asian American light and intermittent smokers were more likely than moderate/heavy smokers to be women (odds ratio [OR] = 2.12, 95% CI = 1.14-3.94), highly educated (OR = 3.16, 95% CI = 1.21-8.28), not Korean (compared with Chinese; OR = 0.32, 95% CI = 0.13-0.79), and bilingual speakers with high English language proficiency compared with English-only speakers (OR = 2.83, 95% CI = 1.21-6.84). Asian American intermittent smokers were more likely than daily smokers to be women (OR = 2.25, 95% CI = 1.08-4.72) and to have lower household income.
Discussion: The predominance of Asian American light and intermittent smoking patterns has important implications for developing effective tobacco control outreach. Further studies are needed to elaborate the relationship between biological, psychosocial, and cultural factors influencing Asian American smoking intensity.