Bollywood â€œencourages Asian men to smokeâ€
The smoking epidemic among South Asian men in the UK is being fuelled by macho images in Bollywood films, stress and cultural traditions, according to research.
Asian films and social norms are reinforcing the idea that smoking is a normal part of being a man, according to the study funded by Cancer Research UK and the Department of Health.
The men also cited religion and the stress of working long hours as the factors influencing their decision to smoke.
Smoking is more common among Bangladeshi men than in any other ethnic group in the UK.
Over the course of two years, about 140 Bangladeshi and Pakistani men and women, aged between 19 and 80, were interviewed about their smoking habits.
Lead researcher Dr Martin White, a Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Newcastle, said, â€œAround half the UKâ€™s Bangladeshi men smoke cigarettes.
â€œWhen compared with their white counterparts, Bangladeshi men have a 20 per cent higher rate of smoking. In public health terms itâ€™s vital that we understand why so many more of these men smoke, and develop culturally sensitive ways to work with this community.â€
Smoking was found to be strongly linked to social acceptance and bonding among South Asian men. This was reinforced by fashionable images of smoking in Indian films and popular media.
Dr White says, â€œBollywood films, which are popular among the UKâ€™s South Asians, often show their leading men with a cigarette in their hand as did the Hollywood films of the 40s and 50s.â€
The research found that it was not considered acceptable for South Asian women to smoke, with many believing it was shameful and disrespectful.
Religious influences were found to conflict with peopleâ€™s smoking habits. The Muslim religion prohibits intoxicants or addictions although it does not specifically ban tobacco. Some respondents said they did not think they were addicted to or intoxicated by tobacco.
The researchers suggest that working closely with religious leaders would help educate people about the health risks and addictiveness of tobacco.
Jean King, director of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK, said, â€œThis study has unpacked the culture of tobacco smoking in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, which is vital if we are to develop ways to help reduce the high smoking and cancer rates in South Asian men.
â€œCurrently, ethnic minority groups are not given sufficient consideration in national smoking cessation policy and we hope this study can help change that in the future.â€