May 02, 2016
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FDA initiates anti-tobacco campaign aimed at LGBT young adults

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The FDA today announced the launch of a public education campaign aimed at preventing and curbing tobacco use among young adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a press release.

The initiative — entitled “This Free Life” — is specifically targeted toward LGBT individuals aged 18 years to 24 years who are social or casual smokers. Data have shown that among more than 2 million LGBT young adults in the United States, more than 800,000 report occasional smoking.

“We know that LGBT young adults in this country are nearly twice as likely to use tobacco as other young adults,” Mitch Zeller, JD, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a press release. “We want LGBT young adults to know that there is no amount of safe smoking. Even an occasional cigarette can have serious health implications and lead to addiction.”

Research has suggested that young adults who identify as LGBT have unique risk factors for tobacco use, including the stress of coming out, actual or perceived social stigma, discrimination and anxiety.

It has also been suggested that environments that may promote tobacco use — such as LGBT bars and clubs — may influence young adults in the LGBT community to smoke, and that open smoking by LGBT celebrities can be seen as normalizing tobacco use in the LGBT community.

This Free Life will launch this week in 12 U.S. markets, using print, digital and out-of-home ads, as well as community outreach, to showcase tobacco-free behaviors in the LGBT community.

The initiative is funded by fees collected from the tobacco industry and does not use taxpayer dollars.

“This Free Life is designed to challenge the perception that tobacco use is a necessary part of LGBT culture,” Richard Wolitski, PhD, acting director of the Health and Human Services’ Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, said in a press release. “The campaign shows LGBT young adults they can be the person they want to be and still live tobacco free.”