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Bay Area young adults talk about how the pressures of sexual, gender, racial and economic discrimination lead to more smoking.

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“Being queer in a heterosexist society is very stressful. I’m willing to bet — in fact,I can tell you definitively that a lot of substance abuse within the queer community is directly tied to that stress, to that sense of comfort and support that is difficult to find outside [in] the big brawn scary world […]It’s addressing I think stresses and anxieties and self-loathing that we’re socialized to accept in ourselves […] So, [smoking] was a misguided attempt to really take control over how I felt in that society that seemed unwelcome of me.”

—  24-year-old queer woman (ex-smoker)

We Can Fight Discrimination AND Big Tobacco

LGBTQ+ people use tobacco to cope with negative experiences specific to being queer. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity causes more queer people to use tobacco and to use more of it. Yet nicotine actually creates more stress — not less.

So why do we use it? One reason is that tobacco products are a cheap, easily accessible coping mechanism with a multi-billion-dollar industry behind them to keep it that way. Another reason is that many of the spaces where we gather to feel safe and supported are also spaces where tobacco use is common.

As a community, we can fight the discrimination that makes us vulnerable AND fight the damage done by that discrimination to so many of us. We can work together to make tobacco products less appealing and harder to get, so queer youth will be less likely to get addicted; we can protect all ages by making LGBTQ+ safe spaces smoke-free; and we can promote queer-supportive quit smoking resources that can provide alternative ways to cope with the stress of being queer in this society.

Urge your city to take action!

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