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Friday, 16 November, 2001, 12:11 GMT
Asians warned to quit smoking
The campaign coincides with Islam's holiest month
An advertising campaign to warn Asian communities in the UK of the dangers of smoking and chewing tobacco is being launched by the government.

It hopes to encourage people in Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian communities to quit the habit, particularly as they are more susceptible to the diseases that result from nicotine addiction.

People from ethnic minorities are not as successful as their white counterparts in giving up tobacco

Shahida Hanif Health visitor

To hammer the message home, the Department of Health campaign will be launched to coincide with Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, when Muslims have to abstain from smoking between sunrise and sunset.

The problem is serious as rates of angina, heart attack, stroke, diabetes and blood pressure are more than 50% higher than the national average among Pakistani and Bangladeshi men.

Some 44% of Bangladeshi men in the UK smoke, compared with 27% of the general male population.

Tobacco chewing

Tobacco chewing is most common among Bangladeshis - 19% of men and 26% of women chew tobacco. Fifty-six per cent of women over 55 chew tobacco.

The campaign, launched on Friday, will include adverts broadcast in the Asian media, on television, radio and in newspapers, along with the distribution of leaflets and posters.

A multi-lingual NHS Asian Tobacco Helpline will also be in operation.

Dr Ajaz Nabi, a GP in Slough, whose patients are predominantly Punjabi, said Ramadan was an ideal time for Asians to give up tobacco.

"During Ramadan, Muslims have to abstain from food and drink - and that includes smoking - during the hours between sunrise and sunset for 30 days," he told BBC News Online.

"If you can make that much effort not to smoke for 12 to 14 hours and feel the benefits afterwards, then hopefully you can carry things on and quit completely.

"It isn't going to be easy, but there are treatments and smoking cessation clinics running nationally."

The Department of Health hopes Asian smokers will give up
A Muslim man smoking

Professor Raman Bedi, a consultant in paediatric dentistry and head of the National Centre for Trans-cultural Oral Health, said there was a high incidence of oral cancer from chewing tobacco.

"There is a growing concern for the health of the South Asian community. Unless something is done, it is possible there will be problems in the future," he said.

Health visitor Shahida Hanif, part of a steering group tackling the issue of smoking in ethnic minorities around Blackburn, Lancashire, said: "Research has found that people from ethnic minorities are not as successful as their white counterparts in giving up."

A Department of Health spokesman told BBC News Online: "Essentially, we are targeting the Asian community because their rate of smoking is much higher than the general population.

"Because of this, the risk factors for things like heart disease, strokes and other serious conditions are that much higher."

Only a third of Asian men who smoke regularly succeed in giving up. This compares with 54% of men in the general population.

Tobacco chewing increases the risk of oral cancer by up to five times, but the importance of chewing as a cultural tradition appears to overshadow concerns over the health risk.

See also:

08 Aug 01 | Health
Drive to cut Asian smoking
21 Nov 00 | Health
Ethnic heart disease gulf widens
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