Pride is our celebration. And as a community, we’ve got a lot to celebrate.
Our big wins over the past few years have included marriage equality, increased transgender visibility, and allies who stand up and fight on our behalf.
Yet our march for equality and justice goes on – long after the Pride celebrations end.
But will our lungs get us there?
Perhaps not. The data paint a grim picture.
Lesbian, gay, and bisexual Coloradans are TWICE as likely to smoke compared to their straight peers. While the smoking rate for all Coloradans has decreased by nearly five percent from 2004 to 2014, the rate of smoking in our community remains the same.
Straight people are quitting. Why aren’t we?
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the tobacco industry has pretended to be our friends for years – sponsoring our events and handing out giveaways and coupons in our bars – all while calling us “scum” behind our backs.
And no, we’re not making that up. Big Tobacco had an internal marketing strategy that referred to LGBTQ people as scum. (We found out when the tobacco industry had to release all of its internal documents about targeting the LGBTQ population with their deadly products.)
Yet the insults directed at us by Big Tobacco pale in comparison to the challenges that so many of us continue to deal with in our daily lives: discrimination, harassment, and exclusion. It’s no surprise that one in three LGBTQ adults in Colorado seek out a cigarette to relieve the stress.
But it’s killing us – literally. Smoking-related disease claims the lives of 30,000 LGBTQ people every year.
“Nothing frustrates me more than people who would capitalize on my pain,” said April Johnson of Denver. “For me it’s about fighting back against those that would seek to profit on my life, my pain, my struggle — without even trying to be present with me.”
Whether you are a smoker, non-smoker, or an occasional social smoker, we invite you to get the facts about smoking in the LGBTQ community, and then help give voice to this issue.
Because at the end of the day, it’s our strength as a community that pushes us forward both on tough social issues like equality and tough personal ones, like tobacco addiction.
Just look at all we have accomplished when we come together and fight! If you’re ready to keep fighting, here’s what you can do:
Not a smoker? Talk to your friends who are. You don’t need to lecture them. Just offer the facts and let them know you’ll support them when they’re ready to quit. And let them know that there are free resources available for them when they’re ready through the Colorado QuitLine.
Stop smoking socially. You might think it’s no big deal to bum a cig when you’re out, but the fact is that it puts you on the path to addiction. And it’s a whole lot easier to stop now than when you become addicted.
Learn how to quit. Maybe you’re not ready to quit and that’s OK. But when you are, there are free resources to support you. The Colorado Quitline (1.800.QUIT.NOW) offers one-on-one counseling and other free quit resources, including nicotine replacement therapy.
We hope you’ll get involved. Many in our community have already shared their struggle and worked with us to spread the word about smoking’s devastating toll on LGBTQ people. If you want to tell your story, share it at EnoughWithThePuff.com.
The official Pride festivities may be over, but the fight – for equality and for the health of our community – continues.