Campus LGBT community to hop on anti-tobacco initiative
Logan Druckman imagines a smokeless LGBT community.
The CU senior sociology major said that he fights for truth and health in the campus’ LBGT communities; he heads the campus-wide initiative to curb high smoking rates for CU students called Smoke-Free LGBT.
“LBGT members smoke a significant amount higher than the rates of the general population,” Druckman said. “Also, there is documentation; it is proven that the tobacco industry targets the LBGT community and other marginalized groups of people.”
According to the California LGBT Tobacco Use Study of 2004, the LBGT community is approximately 40 to 70 percent more likely to smoke than non-LBGT individuals are. Lesbians smoke approximately three times more than straight women do.
Smokers in Colorado share the same trend.
The Colorado Department of Health and the Environment awarded the CU Community Health Education Department with a $2,200 grant to spread awareness and create programs surrounding tobacco use in LGBT campus population. The money stems from a larger initiative called the State Tobacco Education and Prevention Partnership, which is funded by Colorado’s tobacco taxes.
Jennifer Woodard, program director for the statewide Smoke-Free LGBT initiative, wrote the grant and obtained funding from the state. She then chose a number of projects around Colorado to distribute the money.
“The GLBT community smokes at two to three times more than the mainstream community,” Woodard said. “We really believe that we need to have more of a grassroots way of working with it so that local organizations that are already working with the gay community start to integrate this tobacco message into their programming.”
Druckman is a student coordinator at the Community Health Education Department on campus; he also works closely with the GLBT Resource Center and Boulder Pride. He spoke openly about instances of the tobacco industry marketing specifically to the LGBT demographic, Project S.C.U.M as the main example.
Project S.C.U.M., meaning “Sub-Culture Urban Marketing,” is a document from the offices of RJ Reynolds. The marketing strategy planned to target a new Camel cigarette specifically to gay men and homeless people in San Francisco, Calif., in the mid-90s.
The report states that a rationale for the target demographic was the higher incidence of smoking and drug use in subcultures.
“The tobacco industry is taking advantage of the fact that because we are a marginalized group, there are very high rates of stress and depression, which lead people to smoke,” Druckman said.
Druckman also explained that many people use cigarettes to lose weight or diet.
Socially, the bar culture has been a venue where LGBT individuals can interact in a safe, friendly environment. Cigarettes serve as a common ground. In focus groups of LGBT smokers Druckman conducted, 80 percent of people simply said the only reason they started smoking was to start conversations. Twenty percent of the people Logan talked to used to self-harm in high school, and viewed smoking as a socially accepted way to deal with pain.
Smoke-Free LGBT first grew its legs in Boulder in Dec. of 2006. Boulder Pride, Boulder’s LGBT community center, began training groups of volunteers to raise awareness around the issues of GLBT smoking.
Boulder County Public Health as well as Smoke-Free LGBT underwent a comprehensive community study of smoking habits.
Sheri Hink, Tobacco Program Manager for Boulder Pride, said although all findings aren’t deemed final, a strong trend emerged. Lesbian, bisexual or transgender identified women smoke at a higher rate, within the LGBT community.
In response to the findings, Boulder Pride offers a class exclusively for lesbian, bisexual or transgender identified women and allied straight women called Last Drag. The class, which is free, began in early January and currently has 14 women enrolled.
CU’s Community Health Education Department plans to utilize the funds from the grant by getting the word out and getting help for those who need it.
“The first thing we are going to do is spread awareness about this issue; the fact that our community is being specifically targeted,” Druckman said. “People our age know the risks, so we’re approaching it from a social justice perspective.”
Besides spreading awareness, Druckman plans to hold other programs to spark quitting conversation.
Movie nights, with movies containing instances of glorified and sexualized cigarette marketing, are in the works. Discussion will center on deconstructing media portrayals of smoking.
The group also plans to purchase books for the GLBT Resource Center’s library concerning the topic.
For resources on quitting smoking, call the Colorado QUITLINE at 1-800-Quit Now. They offer free professional counseling and individually catered programs to kick the habit and get healthy. Also, Colorado Quit Net offers expert advice, quitting strategies and peer support available 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
Smoke-Free LGBT is making a substantial presence in Boulder and continues to gain support, Druckman said.
“(The tobacco industry) is taking advantage of society; stigmatizing the GLBT community,” Druckman said. “They are capitalizing on that to sell their addictive product.”
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Monica Stone at email@example.com.