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)



ACON Health, 2016, Smoke Free Still Fierce, graphic, viewed 15 December 2017, <;.

ACON Health, 2016, Smoke Free Still Fierce, video recording, viewed 15 December 2017, <;.

ACON Health, 2016, Watch Michelle’s Story, video recording, viewed 15 December 2017, <;.

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, <;.

LGBT Health Equity, n.d., infographic, viewed 16 December 2017, <;.

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, <;.

Truth Initiative, 2017, Tobacco is a social justice issue: LGBT communities, viewed 15 December 2017,  <;.

Wade, M., 2016, ‘Fierce campaign targets queer women’, Star Observer, May 10, viewed 16 December 2017, <;.



Post D: Indonesia’s anti-communist purge and its lasting impact

Anti-communist sentiment in Indonesia during the Cold War resulted in purges and massacres.

As a densely populated, diverse collection of cultures, land masses and people, Indonesia’s collective identity is something that has been fashioned and moulded by its expansive history. Of this, the more recent Thirtieth of September movement and the anti-communist killings of 1965-66 that followed invite provoked further research and analysis into how its effects are still felt and perceived inpresent-day Indonesia.

In the midst of the Cold War, Indonesia’s communist party was the third largest in the world, after China and the USSR. (Associated Press Jakarta, 2017) However, there were internal and external powers that felt threatened by the encroaching threat of communism. With the backing of Western capitalist states such as the US, UK and Australia, (Hawley, 2016) the Indonesian military staged a coup in 1965 that established an authoritarian state under President Suharto. Once in power, he ordered the political genocide of Indonesian communists, and the purging of communist materials and artefacts. (Pohlman, 2014)

indonesia map

Propaganda played a big role in manipulating public opinion and prejudice, the messages of which are still prominent as the highly-skewed and violent films were mandatory showing in classrooms during Suharto’s control. (Cribb, 2015) This fuelled the anti-communist sentiment that underpinned the massacres, as the orders were executed by the military and civilian groups who trained under them. Even today, the genocide is not acknowledged with the respect and honesty owed to its victims, and much of the media or events that attempt to address it are met with censorship.

Probably the most well known is The Act of Killing (2012), a documentary by American filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer. He constructs the film as a blend of genres, and it sits somewhere in-between reality and cinematic make-believe as the real gangsters and murderers of the 1965-66 killings are invited to re-enact their crimes in the style of Hollywood films. This gives a shocking and compelling insight into the justifications made for these atrocities, as they are even regarded as national heroes and face no sanctioned punishment and little remorse. (Roosa, 2016)

The current Indonesian government has taken minimal responsibility for its bloody origins and gone so far as to prevent cinemas from showing the film, and crackdown on private screenings. (Pamuntjak, 2015) The lack of openness and transparency surrounding one of the worst breaches of human rights in the 20th century makes it confusing and difficult for Indonesians to make sense of their own history and collective national identity.


Reference List

Adam, A. W. 2015, ‘How Indonesia’s 1965-1966 anti-communist purge remade a nation and the world’, The Conversation, 1 October, viewed 6 December 2017, <>.

Associated Press Jakarta, 2017, ‘Files reveal US had detailed knowledge of Indonesia’s anti-communist purge’, The Guardian, 18 October, viewed 7 December 2017, <>.

Cribb, R. 2015, ‘Behind the coup that backfired: the demise of Indonesia’s Communist Party’, The Conversation, 30 September, viewed 7 December 2017, <>.

Hawley, S. 2016, ‘Australia, UK, US all complicit in Indonesian massacres, Indonesian judges say’, ABC News, 21 July, viewed 7 December 2017, <>.

Pamuntjak, L. 2015, ‘Censorship is returning to Indonesia in the name of the 1965 purges’, The Guardian, 27 October, viewed 7 December 2017, <>.

Pohlman, A. 2014, ‘Incitement to genocide against a political group: the communist killings in Indonesia’, Portal, Vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 1-22.

Roosa, J. 2016, ‘The state of knowledge about an open secret: Indonesia’s mass disappearances of 1965-66’, The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 75, no. 2, pp. 281-297.

Suwandi, I. 2015, ‘No reconciliation without truth: an interview with Tan Swie Ling on the 1965 mass killings in Indonesia’, Monthly Review, Vol. 67, no. 7, pp. 14-30.

W. Surtarto, 1965, ‘Burning of hammer and sickle’, photography, viewed 8 December 2017, <>.