Hispanic Heritage: Some Organizing Tips

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (which is just ending), we wanted to take a look at the intersection of Latinos and tobacco. As we adopt tobacco control policies  throughout the state we have seen a decrease in smoking rates in California. However, that’s not always the case for diverse populations. Tobacco use varies among diverse communities, and in many cases it is disproportionately higher than the statewide adult and youth averages.

In fact last month the CDC published Flavored Cigar Smoking Among U.S. Adults: Findings from the 2009–2010 National Adult Tobacco Survey in the journal of Nicotine & Tobacco Research that found that Latinos use flavored cigars more than other group. Flavored cigar use was higher among Latino/Hispanic cigar smokers (61.7 percent) than among non-Hispanic white (37.9 percent) and black (39.4 percent) cigar smokers. In 2008, Hispanic high school students in California had the second highest smoking prevalence among all high school students (13.9%). Worse yet, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among Hispanics and in California, deaths from lung cancer are 2.1 times higher for Hispanic men as for Hispanic women.

What does this all mean? How do you apply this to the work you’re doing? As research has shown, Latinos are greatly affected by tobacco use and therefore could be the biggest advocates on this issue. All of the Center’s public opinion polls (including this one last year) have shown the highest levels of support from Latinos. Research, has shown that Latinos care about tobacco control because they don’t want to see young generations addicted to this deadly product. They want to be involved in the fight against big tobacco.

So what are some of the steps that you can take to involve more Latinos on policy work and in your coalitions; let’s take a look at recruitment. One thing to consider is your pitch. So as you’re making your pitch, tweak it so that it is more inclusive and inviting to Latinos. Maybe you have a personal story or connection you can integrate into your pitch. Once you’ve worked on your pitch and you’re ready to start doing some outreach to groups and Latino organizations.

Next create a list of local groups and Latinos organizations in your community, these groups and organizations can range from faith based groups, to educational organizations, and neighborhood councils. The key here is to begin establishing a relationship with these groups, and organizations, for example, by asking them to make a presentation at your next coalition meeting. Attend their next meeting and make your pitch about your coalition or campaign, keep in mind that you might need to change it a little bit depending on which group or organization you’re pitching to. When you make your pitch be sure to drop off a flier about the coalition that is bilingual. If you’re in the middle of a campaign ask them to take an active role in the campaign; maybe they can recruit some of their own members to attend the next city council meeting or write on op-ed on your campaign. Keep in mind that your coalition might also be asked to support the group’s or organization’s own efforts, so be prepared to look at ways that you can collaborate with them.

So as you plan out your work, take look at your strategy chart, the different phases of organizing, and look a some ways to involve more Latinos into your coalitions. I’ve only mentioned a few tips and one aspect of organizing, there many more ways to involve Latinos and other diverse populations. Outreaching to diverse populations is something we should constantly be doing, not just one month out of the year. What are some things that you’re doing to involve more Latinos in your work?

–Julissa Gomez

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