LETTER: Smoking in the Hmong community

To the editor,

Talking to my parents and other Hmong elders who grew up in Laos, smoking tobacco was mostly done by the elder men, ages 60 years and older. Women almost never smoked, especially the young women. Nowadays, it seems as though almost everyone smokes — Hmong men and women, young and old.

Studies show most Hmong smokers start smoking before the age of 15 because of peer pressure and the need to fit in here in America. Some smoke because of stress or to look cool. Some are bored or just want to try smoking. But, once one starts, it’s incredibly hard to quit.

The tobacco industry targets communities of color and youth, in particular, with menthol tobacco products. The Minneapolis City Council is considering an ordinance to restrict the sale of menthol tobacco products to adult-only stores. St. Paul won’t be far behind. Research shows if we make it harder for youth to purchase tobacco, fewer youth are likely to start smoking.

As a Hmong parent, and like every parent, I want my children to grow up healthy and live productive lives here in America, without the struggles of addiction to tobacco. It’s time to put health first in our community.

Ka Thao, St. Paul

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