Monday, March 4, 2024
Health & Happiness

How the LGBTQ community fell prey to the tobacco industry

Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island is calling out Big Tobacco’s practice of target marketing menthol-flavored tobacco products to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Each year, tens of thousands of LGBTQIA+ lives are cut short from smoking-related illnesses. Our community is twice as likely to use tobacco products compared to our straight counterparts. The LGBTQIA+ community is among the hardest hit by tobacco, partly because of the industry’s aggressive marketing of menthol-flavored tobacco products to us over the years.

Menthol makes smoking easier to start and harder to quit, and it’s used by tobacco companies to target, attract and addict LGBTQIA+ individuals. To fight this injustice, Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island has introduced the third phase of its statewide “It’s Not Just” campaign intended to educate people about these tactics, end the misconception that menthol is just a flavor and urge the public to act.

“The LGBTQIA+ community has a long history fighting for justice and equality, and unfortunately the tobacco industry recognized how the fierceness of our community could make a profit,” said Gabe Glissmeyer, project specialist with the National LGBT Cancer Network. “For decades, the targeted marketing of these products, combined with the experiences of homophobia and transphobia and a lack of access to health resources, has continued to make this a social justice issue.”

The deceptive tactics used by Big Tobacco were first uncovered through an internal marketing plan titled “Project SCUM (Subculture Urban Marketing),” which was intended to boost cigarette sales to the gay community and people who are unstably housed/homeless.

Although the name alone is indicative of how Big Tobacco views this population, the industry continues to infiltrate LGBTQ communities by advertising in gay publications; sponsoring Pride events, street fairs and film festivals; and funding HIV/AIDS service organizations.

“Education and heightened awareness about the tactics employed by the tobacco industry to target this population will help healthcare providers to tailor tobacco dependence treatment to meet the specific needs of this community,” said Patricia Folan, DNP, director, Center for Tobacco Control, NYS BTC Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free NY grantee. “Understanding and treatment of tobacco dependence and its consequences may help to decrease the smoking rates among all New Yorkers, especially those most vulnerable, including the LGBTQIA+ community.”

Cigarette smoking is significantly higher among transgender adults

Statistics show that:

  • Approximately 36% of LGBT smokers report smoking menthol cigarettes compared to 29% of heterosexual smokers.
  • Nearly 1 in 6 (16.1%) lesbian, gay and bisexual adults smokes cigarettes, compared with nearly 1 in 8 (12.3%) straight adults.
  • Cigarette smoking is higher among transgender adults (35.5%) than those whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex.

The “It’s Not Just” campaign, first launched in May 2021, draws attention to the tobacco industry’s manipulative marketing of menthol-flavored tobacco products to specific communities. The first two waves of the campaign focused on the industry’s impact on African Americans and youth.

Learn more about how to help fight the injustice of menthol-flavored tobacco products at the campaign’s website: NotJustMenthol.org.

The Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island

The Tobacco Action Coalition of LI is one of 21 Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities grants funded by the NYS DOH’s Bureau of Tobacco Control and administered by the American Lung Association. The grant is comprised of a community engagement and youth action component, Reality Check, working collaboratively to promote environments open to creating a tobacco-free norm as well as educating and empowering youth to become change agents within their communities.

Support is available for New Yorkers who want to quit

The New York State Smokers’ Quitline is a confidential service for all New York State residents who wish to overcome tobacco use, including e-cigarettes. Free offerings include individualized coaching and assistance with quit-planning from highly trained Quit Coaches, text and chat support and free shipping of stop-smoking medications such as nicotine patches or nicotine gum for those 18 and older. Residents of all ages may contact the Quitline for support and educational materials. In addition, the Quitline encourages teens and young adults (ages 13-24) to text “DROPTHEVAPE” to 88709 to join “This Is Quitting,” a free texting support program for help with quitting vaping. Visit nysmokefree.com anytime for more information or call 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) seven days a week, beginning at 9 a.m.

Tobacco Free New York State and Reality Check student groups (part of the NYS Tobacco Control Program) around the state work tirelessly to educate local communities on the tobacco industry’s use of menthol and other flavored tobacco products as a tool to target, attract and addict new smokers.

Queer Forty Staff

Queer Forty writing staff work hard to bring you all the latest articles to help inspire and inform.

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