lgbtIn 1995, Big Tobacco targeted gays in a marketing campaign titled Project SCUM. Ironically, as the LGBT community was heralding a major victory in the battle against AIDS, putting them in the spotlight, the tobacco industry saw them as a viable market to exploit, especially LGBT youth.

A recent article released in the American Journal of Public Health found that LGBT people smoke cigarettes at rates that are nearly 70 percent higher than the general population. It is estimated that LGBT adults are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to smoke than heterosexual adults.

A new report that was recently released by Legacy explores the reasons behind continued disparities in tobacco use among LGBT people versus the general population, explains Legacy’s role in addressing needs to support this priority population, and offers case studies of successful interventions.

The LGBT community, who has always fought for their civil rights and individual liberties, needs to see tobacco use as a serious community health issue. Until the LGBT community does so, SILENCE=DEATH.

The NYC Coalition is working with the The LGBT Community Center through its LGBT Smoke-Free Project because we want to protect LGBT youth from Big Tobacco’s targeted marketing and encourage them to never light up.

More work needs to be done. We’re working with colleagues at the American Cancer Society and the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene on a NYC initiative to raise awareness within the NYC LGBT community and develop strategies to address the continued disparities in tobacco use among LGBT people.

It is likely that smoking is the single greatest health issue stealing years off the lives of LGBT people. As Dr. Scout, Director of the Network for LGBT Health Equity, has said, “More LGBT civil rights leaders’ voices have been silenced by tobacco disparities than any other single thing.”

Along with Dr. Scout, we believe tobacco is one of the biggest social justice issues.  As the new documentary film, How to Survive a Plague, has shown, the LGBT community knows how to fight back.  We are committed to joining with the LGBT community to fight back against Big Tobacco.