Secondhand smoke exposure, awareness, and prevention among African-born women

Am J Prev Med. 2010 Dec;39(6 Suppl 1):S37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.08.011.


Background: Little research exists on exposure to the health risks of secondhand smoke among women and children in African immigrant communities.

Purpose: This exploratory study aims to understand the prevalence of secondhand smoke exposure; assess levels of awareness of the dangers of secondhand smoke; and identify strategies for building increased awareness of these issues in African immigrant communities in Minnesota.

Methods: Key informant interviews with ten African women community leaders, focus groups with 29 female African youth, and surveys of 223 African women were conducted between August 2008 and March 2009. The focus groups and key informant interviews were in English, and the surveys were in English, French, Oromo, and Somali.

Results: Over one quarter of African women reported daily exposure to cigarette smoke, and one in ten women reported daily exposure to smoke from shisha (fruit-flavored tobacco smoked in a hookah or waterpipe). Many respondents had general awareness of the health impacts of tobacco smoke, but some were unsure. The majority felt that increased awareness was badly needed in their communities. Awareness of the health impacts of shisha smoking was particularly low. Strategies for increasing awareness include: using media and visual images, attending large gatherings, and appealing to community members' priorities, including protecting their children.

Conclusions: Exposure to secondhand smoke among women and children in African immigrant communities in Minnesota is substantial. Awareness about the health impacts of secondhand smoke exposure in these communities needs to be increased. Disseminating visual information at existing community gatherings or appealing to individual priorities may be the best approaches to increase awareness and motivate change.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa / ethnology
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emigrants and Immigrants
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota
  • Prevalence
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution