More anti-smoking efforts aimed at LGBT community
“The social stigma and homophobia and the pressures of being LGBT in our society … when people are facing that kind of discrimination they look for coping mechanisms. Tobacco can be that form of coping mechanism,” Blatt said. “We know people usually start smoking fairly young. It actually changes their brain structure as their brain continues to develop.”
Those changes lead to the brain releasing a chemical called dopamine, which induces a feeling of euphoria. When dopamine levels get low, such as in a time of stress, smokers crave cigarettes to entice that feeling again, he said.
“You have to learn how to smoke and you have to learn how to quit,” Blatt said. “If you address [the physical, mental and social parts of addiction] as you quit, that will help you create the best quit plan for you. It takes almost every tobacco user multiple times. We want people to look back at those as ‘practice quits.’”
The CDC shows that 70 percent of smokers want to quit, and Americans saw a decline in smoking during the past few decades. King attributes that to increasing the price of tobacco products, upping the prevalence of smoking bans and giving more people access to cessation resources and medications. He said there are seven FDA-approved medications available to help people quit. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, such methods include nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers and nasal spray. There are also two prescription medications available, Bupropion and Varenicline, known by their retail names Zyban and Chantix.
“There are more targeted [marketing] efforts to reach the LGBT community,” Blatt said. “It used to be one campaign or commercial to reach America and that was it.”
In 2016, the FDA partnered with former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestants for an anti-smoking campaign geared toward the LGBT community, reminding them that smoking causes not just disease, but outwardly effects such as prematurely wrinkled skin and tooth damage – things that any self-respecting flawless individual would never want to be known for.
“In the Atlanta area, there was a targeted promotion of these ads in the Midtown area,” King said.
For any individual who wants to quit, there are resources available outside the patch or prescription medication. Apps like Quitter’s Circle and Butt Out offer support, tracking and motivation. But the ultimate tool to help smokers stop could be their friends, family and the LGBT community itself.
“I think that it really comes down to a situation of preaching what you practice. We know the majority of people don’t smoke and don’t use tobacco. It’s a situation where we need to de-normalize the use of tobacco,” King said.
January 6, 2017