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Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. This is an annual event that celebrates Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Asian/Pacific Islander encompasses1:

  • Asia
  • Pacific Islands of Melanesia
  • Micronesia
  • Polynesia

Like the Black History Month Post, this post will touch on housing, smoking, and secondhand smoke, but among the Asian American and Pacific Islander community instead of Black Americans.



In 2020, there were 19.5 million Asian Americans and a little under 664,000 Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders who reside in the United States. They represented 5.9% and 0.2% of the total U.S. population, respectively. Alaska has a higher percentage of each population, Asian Alaskans making up 6.5% of the population while Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders made up 1.4% of the population.2

Nationally, the median income for Asian Americans was $93,759 compared to $71,664 for non-Hispanic whites. The median income for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders was $66,695.3,4

A publication from the National Coalition of Asian Pacific American Community Development and UCLA found that5:

  • 54% of AAPIs own a home, compared to 66% of white Americans
  • 1 in 4 AAPIs pay more than half of their income towards housing costs, compared to about 1 in 6 white Americans
    • 54% of these severely cost-burdened Asian households are Limited English Proficient.
    • For white Americans, that number is 9%

The Urban Institute reported that AAPIs had lower homeownership when comparing across income and education levels and city they live in. They reported that Limited English Proficiency created challenges in the homebuying process. There are also reports of discrimination among this population as well as other communities of color.6

Source: APPEAL for Health (Videos – Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (

Cigarette and E-Cigarette Use and Secondhand Cigarette Smoke Exposure

At 7%, Asian Americans have the lowest smoking rate among racial groups. However, this hides a disparity in gender among this population. About 12% of Asian men smoked while only 2.6% of women do so7. About 2.2% of Asian Americans currently use e-cigarettes while 10.2% have tried. Black Americans were the only group reported that had lower percentages.8

In Alaska, Asian Americans smoke more than the national rate. It’s reported that 14% of Asian Alaskans smoke. They are tied with Hispanics for the lowest percentage. About 24% of Pacific Islander Alaskans smoke, which is the second highest percentage.

Despite having the lowest percentage of people who smoke nationally, Asian American had the second highest level of nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke, at 22.7%. The secondhand smoke exposure by race is9:

  • Black Americans: 41.5%
  • Asian American: 22.7%
  • White: 17.8%
  • Hispanic: 16.2

The three leading causes of death among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are:

  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke

All three are caused by cigarette smoking. Lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer deaths among this population. 10 Check out impacts of e-cigarettes here.

Marijuana Use and Impacts11

In 2020, 4% Asian Americans and 4% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders represented past month marijuana usage, which represents the lowest percentage across race. For past year marijuana use, 7.5% of Asian Americans and 6.7% of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders reported use. These were the lowest percentages and only ones that were below 15%. For lifetime use, 17.4% of Asians ad 40.7% of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders reported use. Asians Americans had the lowest reported lifetime use of marijuana. Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders had the third lowest lifetime use.

No known report denotes how many people are exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke. However, with increasing marijuana over the years, it’s expected that secondhand marijuana smoke exposure has increase as well.12

Secondhand marijuana smoke contains many of the same toxic and cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke. It also contains some of them in higher amounts. THC can be passed to others, including infants and children through secondhand smoke. People exposed to THC via secondhand smoke can experience psychoactive effects and detectable levels of THC in their body.13

For a full list of known and potential health impacts of marijuana, visit the CDC’s Marijuana and Public Health page.


Source: Asian Smokers Quitline (HOME – Asian Smokers’ Quitline (

Source: Asian Smokers Quitline (HOME – Asian Smokers’ Quitline (

Cessation Resources

  • Alaska State Quitline: free service for those seeking to quit.
    • English: 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669)
  • Asian American Quitline
    • Korean/베트남어: 1-800-556-5564
    • Mandarin/普通话 and Cantonese/廣東話: 1-800-838-8917
    • Vietnamese/Tiếng Việt: 1-800-778-8440
  • Tips from a Former Smoker: will take you to the Asian American stories about their experiences with quitting. Story translated into Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
  • SAMHSA’s National Helpline: helps individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. Provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.

Other Resources



  1. Asian Pacific American Heritage Month 2021 (
  2. S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Alaska
  3. Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander – The Office of Minority Health (
  4. Asian American – The Office of Minority Health (
  5. pdf
  6. More Asian Americans Are Becoming Homeowners, but They Still Face Barriers in the Housing Market | Urban Institute
  7. Tobacco Use in Racial and Ethnic Populations | American Lung Association
  8. Products – Data Briefs – Number 365 – April 2020 (
  9. QuickStats: Trends in Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among Nonsmoking Adults, by Race and Hispanic Origin — National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, United States, 2009–2018 | MMWR (
  10. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, or Pacific Islanders and Tobacco Use | CDC
  11. Section 1 PE Tables – Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, SAMHSA, CBHSQ
  12. Marijuana use at historic high among college-aged adults in 2020 | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  13. Secondhand Marijuana Smoke | Health Effects | Marijuana | CDC


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