What’s not as well-known is that within the LGBT community, smoking rates are considerably higher than among the population as a whole. One study by the American Lung Association even estimates smoking rates in that demographic might be as much as double the national average.
For years, tobacco companies sponsored gay pride events. Industry documents released during tobacco settlement lawsuits show that the companies deliberately targeted LGBT people for marketing.
“[Tobacco companies] would basically say that they were on the side of civil rights, equal rights, but in actuality, the documents state that that’s not what their intention was,” said Joshua Sauer, vice president of OKC Pride Inc. “Their intention was to sell tobacco.”
Although such sponsorship tactics are now largely illegal, tobacco companies continue to place tailored advertising in LGBT magazines and find other ways to promote their products.
“They do it in different ways, not necessarily billboards or television advertising,” said Sauer. “Last year at our Gay Pride Festival, they actually had a tent that did not have a name to it … and you could go inside and try out samples of tobacco.”
In an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking and encourage members of the LGBT community to quit, the Oklahoma County Tobacco Use Prevention Coalition has teamed up with OKC Pride Inc. to launch the Quit Date campaign. The program asks for smokers who are interested in stopping to set a date for reaching that goal and offers resources, such as a help line and website, to help accomplish it.
“People can go online any time and register, and have all of their support online,” explained Vicki Monks, spokeswoman for the coalition. “People can also get free two-week starter kits of nicotine patches or gum or lozenges. It’s a really great resource to help people who want to quit get started on that process.”When asked what advice he had for those struggling with nicotine addiction, Sauer said, “Just focus on [your] future in life, focus on future health and not just what [you’re] going through now.”
The phone number for the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline is 800-784-8669 for English or 800- 793-1552 for Spanish. For more information, go online to okhelpline. com.