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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Survey prompts tobacco awareness

    Lesbian, gay, bi-affectionate and transgender community smoking rates are 50 percent higher for men and 200 percent higher for women than those of the heterosexual community, according to the 2003 California LGBT Tobacco Survey.

    These high statistics were the reason for a LGBT Leadership Forum on Tuesday titled, “”Coming Out of the Smoke.”” It was the state’s first official summit, funded by the Arizona Department of Health Services, to address these high smoking rates within this specific population.

    “”Even though it’s a big issue, Arizona tends not to focus on this group because politically, it is a heavily conservative state when it comes to the legislature,”” said Stephen Michael, director of Arizona’s Smokers Helpline. “”So it’s taken a while to make it happen.””

    The tobacco industry has been accused of specifically targeting the group.

    “”There’s evidence that the tobacco industry has targeted the LGBT community through advertisements in LGBT-targeted magazines and events,”” said Judy Kinney, Wingspan health and wellness coordinator. “”There are not a lot of places we’re able to look around in the world and see ourselves reflected so marketers have seen that we respond effectively to these advertisements.””

    At the forum, it was also mentioned that the tobacco industry is one of the few groups willing to sponsor LGBT events.

    “”When you have trouble trying to find someone to support your event or organization, what are you gonna do?”” said R.J. Shannon, the minority AIDS coordinator for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

    “”I was really surprised by the notion of the LGBT community being grateful for the tobacco company for their support,”” said Joel Miester, a forum attendee. “”It bothers me that that’s the attitude people have.””

    About twenty people went to the forum, including physicians, policy makers, smokers and non-smokers. They discussed the impact of tobacco on the LGBT community, the current measures being taken to lessen percentages and recommendations from those who attended as to what they should do next.

    Wingspan, an LGBT community center, hosted the forum along with the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline.

    “”The goal (was) to get some recommendations on what is the best way to involve this community to redesign tobacco control in this state,”” Michael said.

    The recommendations mentioned in the discussion included establishing members of the LGBT community as an at-risk group, making use of data collected, making facts available, stopping the targeting by the tobacco industry, funding educational campaigns and creating education programming for people who have recently realized their sexual orientations.

    “”We really identify the impact of social homophobia as a primary factor that contributes to the higher rate of smoking,”” Kinney said. “”We’ve accepted that (tobacco is) the lesser of these two evils.””

    Terri Holloway, cessation coordinator for Mojave Valley Health Department, said the growing problem needs to be solved sooner, rather than later.

    “”It is a problem for tomorrow, but we need to address it today.””

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