Tobacco in LGBT communities: #SmokeFreeStillFierce

(ACON Health, 2016)

Tobacco advertising capitalises on the constructed perception that smoking is empowering and glamorous. These connotations are reinforced and recontextualised to sell their product across different demographics, including counter-culture groups. The mystery and glamour associated with cigarette consumption is reworked into ideals such as independence and emancipation through advertising imagery and language, which makes its way into popular culture film, music and other consumable content. (Quinlan, 2016) For example, cigarettes were marketed as ‘torches of freedom’ to women amidst the popularity of the women’s rights movement. (Lee, 2008) For the LGBTQ demographic, smoking was advertised as a liberating choice and became a pervasive part of queer party culture. (Agnew-Brune et al, 2014)

ACON’S #SmokeFreeStillFierce campaign video (ACON Health, 2016)

A 2016 NSW campaign discouraging smoking as a part of queer culture and its community is #SmokeFreeStillFierce, which is run by the NSW government LGBTI health organisation, ACON, and specifically targets lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. It was based on research conducted by ACON and the University of Sydney into the smoking habits of LGQ women and how they differed from straight current and ex-smokers. Tobacco use is generally not acknowledged as a major queer issue, even though statistics show that there is a disparity between LBGT smokers and non-LGBT smokers, especially among youth. (Malone et al, 2008)

Infographic on Tobacco use and awareness in the LGBT community (LGBT Health Equity, n.d.)

Today, American LGBT adults are smoking at a far higher percentage, at 20.6% compared to the 14.9% of heterosexuals. (Truth Initiative, 2017) There is also the possibility of increased health risks for this demographic as HIV-positive people are more susceptible to thrush and pneumonia infections, and trans women undergoing hormone therapy are at greater risk of developing heart and lung cancer if they smoke during the treatment. (Quinlan, 2016)

Personal interviews establish a supportive network surrounding the campaign (ACON Health, 2016)

The campaign is largely run through social media and the sharing of digital content, including short videos, personal interviews and downloadable resources to assist with quitting. They also organise events and online interventions, which focus on the sharing of stories and community driven aspect of the organisation.  It takes much more of a positive, light-hearted approach than is typical for anti-tobacco campaigns, which reflects the demographic they are speaking to. It is also designed to make cessation a more open, supportive experience by encouraging conversation and the sharing of personal journeys, as their research showed that most were well aware of the health risks of smoking but found little motivation and support in the heavy imagery and shock-tactics of most anti-smoking campaigns. (Wade, 2016)

 

REFERENCES

ACON Health, 2016, Smoke Free Still Fierce, graphic, viewed 15 December 2017, <https://www.acon.org.au/who-we-are-here-for/women/smoke-free-still-fierce-project/&gt;.

ACON Health, 2016, Smoke Free Still Fierce, video recording, viewed 15 December 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yRTLpOqzTk&gt;.

ACON Health, 2016, Watch Michelle’s Story, video recording, viewed 15 December 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M2qlxJquj4&gt;.

Agnew-Brune, C. B., Blosnich, J. R., Clapp, J. A., Lee, J. G. L., 2014, ‘Out smoking on the big screen: tobacco use in LGBT movies, 2000-2011, Tobacco Control, vol. 23, no. 2.

Lee, J. 8., 2008, ‘Big tobacco’s spin on women’s liberation’, The New York Times, October 10, viewed 14 December 2017, <https://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/10/big-tobaccos-spin-on-womens-liberation/&gt;.

LGBT Health Equity, n.d., infographic, viewed 16 December 2017, <http://www.outsmartmagazine.com/2014/01/lgbt-people-spend-7-9-billionyear-on-our-biggest-health-problem/&gt;.

Malone, R. E., Offen, N., Smith, E., 2008, ‘Tobacco industry targeting of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community: A white paper’, IDEAS Working Paper Series from RePEc.

Quinlan, C. 2016, ‘How the tobacco industry exploits LGBTQ people’, The Establishment, November 11, viewed 15 Decmber 2017, <https://theestablishment.co/how-the-tobacco-industry-exploits-lgbtq-people-15c58364f2bc&gt;.

Truth Initiative, 2017, Tobacco is a social justice issue: LGBT communities, viewed 15 December 2017,  <https://truthinitiative.org/news/tobacco-social-justice-issue-smoking-and-lgbt-communities&gt;.

Wade, M., 2016, ‘Fierce campaign targets queer women’, Star Observer, May 10, viewed 16 December 2017, <http://www.starobserver.com.au/news/national-news/fierce-campaign-targets-queer-women/149102&gt;.

 

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