UTICA, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) – BRIDGES, Madison County Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse, Inc. is calling out Big Tobacco for its unfair marketing tactics with the “It’s Not Just” campaign and urging the public to take notice. This Monday at 6 p.m., BRIDGES hosted a discussion, open to the public, at the Dunham Public Library to talk about this problem and how to be part of the solution.
Every year, tens of thousands of LGBTQIA+ lives are cut short by smoking-related illnesses. According to Truth Initiative, people who identify as LGBT are twice as likely to use tobacco products as their non-LGBT counterparts. And we have not yet approached this issue at the level that we should have for a long time. And we have not yet approached this question at the level that we should have until today.
“The tobacco company has long targeted the LGBTQIA+ community, they have found ways to act as allies to fund Pride events. To advertise in LGBTQ magazines and publications. And unfortunately, when they claim to be an ally of this group, they are promoting a product that causes death and disease. So it doesn’t sound like someone who cares about the community, it really is someone trying to make a profit,” said Abby Jenkins, Community Engagement Coordinator at BRIDGES.
“It’s not just a flavor. It’s not just menthol. Menthol is one of the additives that makes smoking easier to start and harder to quit, and really draws attention to how addictive these products are,” she said.
During the hour-long presentation, Jenkins showed data showing higher smoking rates among LGBTQIA+ people and commercial posters specifically designed for LGBTQIA+ people. The audience shared their own experience struggling with highly addictive menthol tobacco products.
In addition to showcasing their ongoing campaigns, Jenkins sparked a discussion with the audience about what the community could help deal with menthol tobacco addiction.
“I think it definitely starts at home. It starts with educating yourself. It starts with reaching out to partners, people like us, we’re always looking to get people involved and we’re happy to reach out and have communications and partnerships with everyone. The other big thing is that a lot of our small towns, small communities are getting involved. It’s important to know what’s going on at community events or our local politics and really create a tobacco free/safe environment for your friends and neighbors. There is always a way to get involved,” she said.