Objective: To develop cross-culturally valid and comparable questionnaires for use in clinical practice, tobacco cessation services and multiethnic surveys on tobacco use.
Methods: Key questions in Urdu, Cantonese, Punjabi and Sylheti on tobacco use were compiled from the best existing surveys. Additional items were translated by bilingual coworkers. In one-to-one and group consultations, lay members of the Pakistani, Chinese, Indian Sikh and Bangladeshi communities assessed the appropriateness of questions. Questionnaires were developed and field tested. Cross-cultural comparability was judged in a discussion between the researchers and coworkers, and questionnaires were finalised. Questionnaires in Cantonese (written and verbal forms differ) and Sylheti (no script in contemporary use) were written as spoken to avoid spot translations by interviewers.
Results: The Chinese did not use bidis, hookahs or smokeless tobacco, so these topics were excluded for them. It was unacceptable for Punjabi Sikhs to use tobacco. For the Urdu speakers and Sylheti speakers there was no outright taboo, particularly for men, but it was not encouraged. Use of paan was common among women and men. Many changes to existing questions were necessary to enhance cultural and linguistic appropriateness—for example, using less formal language, or rephrasing to clarify meaning. Questions were modified to ensure comparability across languages, including English.
Conclusion: Using theoretically recommended approaches, a tobacco-related questionnaire with face and content validity was constructed for Urdu, Punjabi, Cantonese and Sylheti speakers, paving the way for practitioners to collect more valid data to underpin services, for sounder research and ultimately better tobacco control. The methods and lessons are applicable internationally.
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