Worlds unite to fight smoking
In an creative way, the Asian Community and Culture Center is bringing the community together through secondhand smoke.
ROBERT BECKER/Lincoln Journal Star - A billboard near 27th and Vine streets translates an anti-smoking message into English, Spanish and Vietnamese.Now on huge billboards throughout Lincoln, messages about secondhand smoke are written in three languages: English, Spanish and Vietnamese.
Not a typical undertaking for a center that usually focuses on increasing awareness of Asian cultural heritage and values, but Associate Director Susan Burton said the topic of secondhand smoke was determined by the Legislature in LB1436.
The bill established the Nebraska Comprehensive Tobacco Plan, which designated $7 million per year for three years to go toward preventing tobacco use and other hazards of environmental tobacco smoke.
"This legislation has designated specific funds to work with ethnic minority groups," Burton said.
The grant then allowed the Asian Center, Catholic Social Services, the Hispanic Center and the Lincoln Council on Alcohol and Drugs to work together on the project, she said.
"Many Vietnamese did not know there were so many chemicals that cause cancer in secondhand smoke," she said.
But the issue of smoking and the effects of second-hand smoke couldn't exactly be attacked head on. Smoking in some cultures is accepted, and had to be treated delicately, Burton said. The first billboard produced by the organizations actually just said "Welcome" in seven different languages.
"We didn't want to start out with, 'Don't smoke,' " Burton said.
Interfaith Council Rev. Norman Leach, who also works with the Asian Center, said starting out with a "Don't smoke" warning would probably have driven people away.
"You first build a trust relationship, and deal with them on a bilingual level," Leach said. And while the Malone and Indian centers focused on youth initiation to smoking, Burton said she and her organizers knew that many Asian families have more of a hierarchy in their families.
"We didn't want to disrupt the traditional structure in the family," she said, "So that's why we took this approach."
The billboards are aimed at parents because although children often come home from school with information, the parents are the decision makers."
"The kids are who are taking a healthy lifestyle themselves try to convince the parents in a culture where the parents tell you (what to do)," Leach said.
Burton said the Indian Center also had to find a culturally appropriate way to talk about the dangers of smoking because smoke is an important part of their ethnicity.
"In a way, ethnic groups had to take a different approach," she said.
Burton said Vietnamese was chosen for the third language on the billboards because it is the largest language spoken by the Asian population of Lincoln.
Douglas Naegele, vice president of Tri-State Advertising in Lincoln, said foreign languages usually aren't used to advertise unless there is a large population that speak the language, but they can be used as a point-making tool.
"If you want to get people's attention, you put something up in a foreign language," he said.
Burton, who helped write the grant, worked with Lamar Outdoor Advertising, which volunteered the billboard space as long as the grant organizers paid for the design.
"Kudos, kudos to Lamar," she said. "They've basically said, 'Yeah, anything you need.' "