New ACS CAN projects in California aim to recruit volunteers, reduce tobacco exposure in Hispanic communities

September 25, 2019

Building a new community of Latino advocates and leaders to fight cancer.  Reducing tobacco use, exposure, and access to tobacco products.  A public education campaign about why smoke-free policies save lives and helps keep families healthy. 

Sound like a lot to take on? It’s what our new project – VIVE or “Vidas Importante – Vecindarios Elevados” (Important Lives – Elevated Neighborhoods) in California is tackling over a five-year grant which will focus on health disparities in some Hispanic communities in Southern California. 

This project, along with another in Central California which will prohibit smoking at community colleges, trade schools and health care facilities, will not only educate members of the community and help keep people safe from secondhand smoke, it will help ACS CAN recruit and train new advocates in the fight against cancer. 

“The (VIVE) project is designed to engage and recruit new volunteers from the Hispanic/Latino population to improve the health equity in their cities as it relates to tobacco,” said ACS CAN program manager Omar Gonzalez. “We want community members to become advocates and to empower their households and communities to be heard at a local level through this project, and also engage in state and federal advocacy.”

The VIVE project will include:

  • Educating the public about the benefits of smoke-free policies that prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars, workplaces and other sites. This includes informing the community about the dangers of tobacco use and that there aren’t “safer” smoking practices. 
  • Building relationships with community leaders and lawmakers around the need and the urgency to expand smoke-free policies into their cities and communities.  
  • Mentoring and training young adults to become advocates for ACS CAN and leaders in their communities who can use their voices to lead the fight against tobacco.

Even though tobacco use is relatively low in the Hispanic community compared to other populations, exposure to secondhand smoke in homes may be higher for Latino families. This is partly due to a lack of smoke-free policies in multi-unit housing buildings like apartments, and a lack of smoke-free policies in their communities. 

“It’s important we engage communities in smoke-free policies, especially Spanish speaking ones, which tend to have greater exposure to secondhand smoke. Building trust and involvement with the people who live and work in these places will lead to improved, long-term and sustainable health in their community,” Gonzales said.