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Pride Month a reminder of inequity

June is Pride Month. This month celebrates the successes of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community.

It is also a time to address the many health inequities affecting the community, such as tobacco use. For many LGBTQ teens, the coming out process can be a very stressful experience that makes turning to tobacco more likely. There are also other challenges to cope with, such as facing discrimination and feeling rejected or misunderstood. Tobacco companies know of these challenges and make efforts to target this population by advertising to the LGBTQ community.

* According to The Voice of Vaping at Vaping Daily, many of the advocacy groups and organizations working to earn equal rights for gay individuals receive funding by the tobacco industry. It is rarely in an organization’s best interest to speak against the sponsors who are funding its work, leading to a tricky situation for those groups who claim to be acting in the best interests of their communities and members.

* Until recently, the LGBTQ community was a relatively untapped market. Fewer gay individuals were openly “out” and community-focused media wasn’t as mainstream. As tighter regulations were put on the sales of tobacco products, the tobacco companies saw an opportunity in targeting those in the LGBTQ community. Targeted ads were placed on specific websites and magazines, and marketing strategies were implemented in order to get more individuals to smoke.

It isn’t always easy to be LGBTQ and tobacco-free. This is why the FACT Movement, Wisconsin’s youth tobacco prevention program, continues to step up, raise awareness and spread the truth about tobacco. Our FACT group in Maple is working hard to educate our community about health disparities like this so everyone has an opportunity to live a healthy life, free of tobacco-related illness.

For example, our group conducted a FACTivisim called the tobacco shoe swap. Each person that does this activity is given a card, and on that card is a few characteristics distinguishing your “person.” An example being a caucasian male with smoker in his household. Depending on which side of the spectrum you were on, you would either step back, step forward, or stay in place when a characteristic was said. “Step forward if you are straight.” “Take two steps backward if you are intellectually and economically inclined.” After everything was said, you would see where people were in the room. You learned what factors could influence you to choose tobacco over something else. To learn more about the work of FACT groups throughout our state, visit FACTmovement.org.

Alicia Michaud, Maple

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