Smoking contributes to a range of negative health outcomes, such as cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illness. In fact, tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the United States.
What is less commonly understood is that smoking is even more of a problem for the LGBT population. That’s because LGBT young adults are nearly twice as likely to use tobacco as other young adults. As a consequence, each year tens of thousands of LGBT lives are lost to tobacco use. Further, of the more than 2 million young adults ages 18-24 who identify as LGBT in the United States, more than 800,000 smoke occasionally – that’s 40%! So a campaign to prevent them from engaging in this harmful health behavior could be lifesaving.
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“We know LGBT young adults in this country are nearly twice as likely to use tobacco as other young adults,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “We want LGBT young adults to know that there is no safe amount of smoking. Even an occasional cigarette can have serious health implications and lead to addiction.”
"This Free Life" Campaign
“This Free Life that communicates serious information about the ugly side effects of smoking in a unique and engaging way. The new campaign is part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to prevent death and disease caused by tobacco use and will complement the agency’s at-risk youth education campaigns. The $35.7 million “This Free Life” campaign is funded by user fees collected from the tobacco industry, not by taxpayer dollars.
Smoking and People Living with HIV
Just as in the LGBT community, smoking rates are disproportionately high among people living with HIV. According to CDC data, 42% of adults living with HIV were current smokers compared to about 21% of the general public. Unfortunately, smoking cigarettes can intensify the health risks of HIV, even for people who have their condition well controlled. Smoking increases the chances of heart disease, cancer, serious lung diseases and infections, which are all conditions that those with HIV are more vulnerable to developing. So quitting smoking—or never starting—may be one of the most important steps toward better health that a person living with HIV can take.