COLUMN: FDA leads the way in stopping LGBT tobacco use

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration announced a bold, new strategy to counter smoking rates among LGBT youth in the United States.

The strategy is bold because it’s the first of its kind.

According to Buzzfeed, the ad campaign “This Free Life” is the first ad campaign to explicitly attempt to lower smoking rates for young LGBT people.

Buzzfeed noted the FDA will spend $35.7 million in advertising and social media promotion in areas like New York, Chicago and San Francisco to promote the campaign.

The campaign itself consists of a series of short advertisements that last around 30 second in length and are ground breaking not just for their LGBT content, but for their racial and gender diversity as well.

One of the advertisements features two black women who meet each other at a party. One of them discusses how important it is to stay tobacco-free while she and her partner enjoy watching a movie together.

Needless to say, the ad was so cute I sobbed at my laptop screen for a decent 20 minutes.

Another ad, titled “Be Known For Your Flawless,” stars drag queens. Each one of the queens looks at the camera and talks about how smoking will affect their appearance in negative ways — with wrinkles, poor teeth, etc.

The inclusion of these drag queens in the ad is also noteworthy. According to Buzzfeed, it’s the first time a federal government ad has included drag queens in it before.

I applaud the FDA’s efforts to decrease smoking rates within this segment of the population because it is an issue that desperately needs to be 

According to the FDA, of the more than 2 million young adults who are LGBT in the U.S., around 800,000 of them smoke occasionally. LGBT youth are also almost twice as likely to use tobacco compared to other members of our nation’s youth.

Because of these statistics, a public health campaign like the “This Free Life” campaign has been needed for a long time to address the health needs of young LGBT people.

The campaign is also a great one because its funding came directly from the industry that claims and endangers so many young lives in our nation today.

According to USA Today, the $35.7 million campaign was not funded by taxpayer money from the government. It was funded from fees that were collected from the tobacco industry itself.

So not only does this campaign seek to target those who might be most vulnerable to tobacco use, it was also paid for by the same companies that promote tobacco products, making it an interesting twist of irony that money from the industry is being used to curtail its harmful effects.

Campaigns like “This Free Life” are necessary to protect the health of our nation’s LGBT youth. I’m happy to see the FDA leading the way on this topic.

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