For Hispanic and Latino Smokers Quitting is All About Family & Culture

Beatrice smoked her first cigarette when she was 7 years old. By 13, she was a regular smoker.

The mother of two quit smoking in her late 30s, inspired by her sons.

“When my son was 11, he wrote me a letter and in it he asked me to quit smoking,” Beatrice said. “And when I was going through the process of quitting, that letter was very motivating for me. I want to be here for my family.”

Beatrice, who tells her story in a government video urging Hispanics and Latinos to quit, typifies the trend in that ethnic group, experts say.

Most efforts to get people to quit smoking carry a simple yet powerful message: Stop because it can kill you.

That tough message may change some minds, but experts say Hispanic and Latino smokers may succeed more with different messages. In short, addressing cultural differences and the importance of family can be more helpful, they say.

“That’s key: understand the culture, more than language,” said Hernán Tagliani, founder and president of The Group Advertising in Orlando, Florida, whose work has focused on U.S. Hispanics and Latinos for over a decade.

Quitting is critical for all people because smoking damages blood vessels and may lead to heart disease and stroke. It’s responsible for one in five deaths in the United States and is a leading cause of preventable deaths, experts say.

To help Hispanics and Latinos quit, it’s key to understand that smoking rates vary significantly by ethnicity. Similarly, idioms and slang terms can vary wildly from one country to the next in a way that could make some messages less effective. For example, Puerto Ricans have the highest smoking rate among Hispanics in the United States but may listen to messages differently than Venezuelans or Mexicans.

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