HHS Tobacco Strategic Plan Launch: Eyewitness Account & LGBT Inclusion Details

by Scout
Director of National LGBT Tobacco Control Network
1st ever HHS Tobacco Plan!
Reporting from George Washington University Auditorium Launch of the HHS Tobacco Strategic Plan

Houston We Have An Easy-to-Read Liftoff

As your intrepid guy about town, I zipped down to DC to attend the live launch of the first-ever HHS Tobacco Control Strategic Plan. If memories of Healthy People 2010 are leaving you waiting for the shorter movie version of the plan, let me tell you the first piece of important news – this plan is only 21 pages long! So, read away dear ones!

The Launch Party

I get to DC and sure enough, it’s a gathering of the glitterati of the tobacco control world (which of course meant I didn’t know half the folk)… there’s the head of ALA, TFK, ACS, OSH*, BLDDT, CHRK, and ZLWY. (ok, maybe I made a few of those up). And there’s big TV cameras everywhere, like maybe there’s a new all-tobacco-all-the-time set of news channels? Arrayed in the front of the room are posters of all the new tobacco warning ads FDA just announced they are considering. Plus lo, I see the head of another tobacco disparity network, Jeannette Noltenius (the Latino network). We of course bond together, because we are nearly invincible as a team. With a nod to dear ally Rosie Hinson from HHS Assistant Secretary Koh’s office (she was the one who helped make sure there were enough LGBT references in the plan before launch) I sat down and hushed up ready for the show.

Many folk were obviously listening to the actual launch via webcast… so let me just hit a few points that stuck out for me in the launch comments.

HHS Secretary Sebelius explained how tobacco is a big focus for HHS and health care reform, she mentioned the 3 bigger initiatives they’ve taken till now.

The gathered media waiting for the launch party

Big 3 Govt Tobacco Initiatives Before This Plan

  1. Passing FDA oversight of nicotine, which will especially change the warning labels. (finally!)
  2. Investing about $250M in new tobaccoprograms (presumable through Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) and REACH awards, neither had much LGBT inclusion).
  3. Healthcare reform invests $15B (over years) in new prevention healthcare fund. (This money is expected to take the best practices from 2. and replicate them to other areas.)

Shocking Facts Rattled Off

  • Tobacco costs this country $193B a year in health care and lost productivity costs! ($96B in healthcare costs alone)
  • Tobacco estimated to take 1 billion lives worldwide this century.
  • 1,000 people each day become daily smokers.

    Assist. Secty. Koh rattling off shocking facts, but what is Secty. Sebelius doing?
  • 8 million people in US have chronic diseases stemming from tobacco.
  • Every 10% increase in cigarette costs decreases local smoking rates by 4%. (<- that’s why policy changes are SO hot right now)
  • US Tobacco industry spends $12.5 billion dollars a year in marketing, or $34M a day!

4 Pillars of New Tobacco Plan

  1. Change social norms (including big media campaign to counter last point above)
  2. Improve health (supporting states and communities to continue work like was launched with CPPW awards, or supporting quitlines).
  3. HHS leading by example (such as increasing cessation coverage through medicare and medicaid, both planned rollouts)
  4. Advancing knowledge (like more data collection on priority populations and more research on best practices)

The Goal

According to Assistant Secty Koh, “The goal is to make it as easy to quit a it is to buy a pack of cigarettes.” And of course… they also talked about the other goal of making sure young folk don’t start.

New FDA Tobacco Warnings

So Miguel, the videocam fits in your pocket but the mic needs its own suitcase?

Not sure if lesbians gained control of Congress while I wasn’t looking but in what seems to government by consensus, the FDA has rolled out 36 potential new warning labels for cigarette packages and are taking comments on them until Spring. Then they will pick 9 that will be required to cover the top 50% of front and back of each cigarette pack and top 20% of every tobacco industry advertisement by Sept 2011. Like the FDA Commissioner said… “this essentially makes each pack of cigarettes into a mini billboard for tobacco control.” It’s an interesting note that while the ads are sometimes graphic… it’s not necessarily because they feel adults need to learn the dangers (research has shown most adults know the dangers well), but because they feel it’ll be a deterrent to youth to see (or carry around) something so terribly yucky looking. Interesting. Linda Bailey from North American Quitline Consortium later asked, “why don’t any of the warnings include the national quitline 1-800-QUITNOW?” Good point Linda, maybe folk can suggest that in the comment period.

Open Comments and Other Bloggers

In the comment section Jeanette and I duly stood up and mentioned something about disparity populations. I believe I mostly thanked them then asked another question about elementary school programs (which showed how many were watching online because folk started to email me resources right after I spoke) and Jeannette asked about the importance of racial and ethnic minority community-based work. But then afterwards I hooked up with old buddy Miguel Gomez from Office on HIV/AIDS (who was sporting the biggest microphone I’ve ever seen attached to his flip camera). He runs AIDS.gov and seems they are doing buckets of social media interviews and podcasting for blog.AIDS.gov, so when he finishes editing them up, I’ll be sure to link them here. And later, we’re hoping they teach us some tricks to get our Youtube channel really rolling. (until then thanks for reading the old school print version!) But I know you’re all waiting for the real news, so let me get right to…

LGBT Inclusion in Tobacco Plan

  • P. 12 CHALLENGES: THE BURDEN OF TOBACCO USE AND BARRIERS TO PROGRESS. “Members of certain racial/ethnic minority groups, individuals of low socio-economic status (SES),pregnant women, and other groups carry a disproportionate burden of risk for tobacco use and tobacco-related illness and death… [last sentence of para] Available evidence also reports very high smoking rates among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations;however these populations remain underrepresented in current surveillance systems used to monitor tobacco use.”
  • p. 23 STRATEGIC ACTIONS: 4. Advance Knowledge. [bullet 3] “Expand research and surveillance related to high-risk populations (e.g. American Indians/Alaskan Natives and other minority racial/ethnic groups; lesibn, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations; individuals with mental disorders; those of low socio-economic status) to identify effective approaches to prevention and cessation.”
  • P. 24 STRATEGIC ACTIONS: 4. Advance Knowledge. [bullet 4] Expand research andsurveillance that promote the effectiveness of both population- and individual-based cessation interventions and tobacco dependence treatments. [Descriptive subtext] … “In addition there is a need for more evidence of effective cessation interventions for populations such as youth; young adults; pregnant women; low-income smokers; racial/ethnic minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender smokers; light or intermittent smokers; and those with comorbidities (particularly mental health and substance abuse disorders).”

That’s all I’ve got for now folk, hope you enjoyed the eyewitness account of the launch!



* ALA = American Lung Association
TFK = Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
OSH = CDC Office on Smoking and Health
ACS = American Cancer Society

Published by Dr. Scout

Vegetarian biking small town transgender father of 3 feisty teens in real life, Director of Network for LGBT Health Equity in pro life.

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