June is Pride Month. To Adagio Health, Pride is an opportunity to celebrate LGBTQ+ progress and identity, while also honoring the past and recognizing the continued inequities faced by the queer community. However, to Big Tobacco, Pride Month is simply a marketing opportunity.
The tobacco industry has a history of intentionally targeting marginalized populations, including people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, low-income communities, and those with mental illness. So, it is no surprise that they aim to capitalize on Pride Month. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults were almost 6% more likely to be current smokers than heterosexuals. What’s worse, 35.5% of transgender adults – more than twice that of cisgender adults – identified as current smokers. Tobacco companies have taken notice. Since the 1990s Big Tobacco has heavily targeted the LGBTQ+ community through advertisements in queer media, Pride parade sponsorships, corporate philanthropy, and product giveaways. Advertisements that glamorize smoking and articles having nothing to do with smoking that include tobacco images have helped to portray tobacco use as a normal part of queer life.
The 2020 Pennsylvania LGBTQ+ Health Needs Assessment showed that 1 in 3 participants age 24 or younger currently vape or smoke. That’s the bad news. The good news -- the study also found that a majority of respondents believe that vaping, Juuling, and e-cigarettes constitute a threat to the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ communities, and nearly three quarters of respondents were interested in quitting tobacco.
Adagio Health is working with leading organizations serving the LGBTQ+ community to prevent and reduce tobacco use in queer spaces in Allegheny County and Southwest Pennsylvania. In partnership with Adagio Health, the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation has expanded efforts to decrease tobacco use in the Greater Pittsburgh LGBTQ+ community and beyond. Adagio Health and Hugh Lane Wellness are providing virtual cessation courses, youth programming, and technical assistance to create comprehensive tobacco and smoke-free policies where people live, work, and play.
Despite being targeted by big tobacco’s marketing campaigns, the LGBTQ+ community is incredibly resilient. The 2020 Pennsylvania Health Needs Assessment found that many LGBTQ+ smokers expressed an interest in quitting in the immediate future. Individuals interested in quitting can reach out to the Pennsylvania Free Quitline for free telephone coaching and nicotine replacement therapies at 1-800 QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).
This Pride Month, take pride in your identity as well as your health. If you use tobacco, make a commitment to quit today.