The Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ), on May 3, launched an extensive health campaign calling attention to smoking amongst young adultsdefined in this case as persons ages 18-24in the LGBT community.
Rhode Island-based activist Dr. Scout, a former Chicagoan, called the program the "biggest LGBT health initiative in history. I've been working in LGBT health for years and I can't remember one this big."
The $35-million campaign, This Free Life, calls attention to role that tobacco use plays in the social life of LGBT young adults. According to the FDA, smoking rates are about 50-percent higher in the LGBT community than among straights, and LGBTs spend on average about $7.9 billion on tobacco products.
Dr. Scout said many LGBTs use smoking as a coping mechanism against the stresses that result from discrimination. But he also called smoking "a socially-transmitted diseaseat the time, it feels like a great way to fit in. People would be in social settings and everyone would leave and go smoke together."
This Free Life will make use of social media, the FDA website and print advertising. The campaign will utilize local event outreach in a dozen cities, among them Chicago. Key messages include negative health consequences and addiction risks of tobacco use; chemicals found in cigarette smoke; and negative effects on LGBT lives.
"I really hope that this is the start of a good conversation," said Dr. Scout.
A second announcement a few days later, on May 5, said that the FDA had extended its regulatory authority over tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco. According to FDA data, LGBT young adults use those secondary products at a disproportionately higher rate than straight young adults as well.
Information about the campaign can be found at 1.usa.gov/1W6FKfn.