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Update — Current Policy Priorities of the Tobacco Disparity Networks


Scoutby Scout, Ph.D.
Director, Network for LGBT Health Equity
At The Fenway Institute

Legacy Convenes Disparity Networks Plus Meeting

"Disparities Networks Plus" Meeting Participants

Today we’re at a convening across disparity populations made possible by our allies at American Legacy Foundation. Right now we’re going around the table and updating everyone on the policy priorities for each of the different tobacco disparity leaders in attendance. All six of the CDC funded tobacco disparity networks are here, most with multiple representatives. We also have Praxis, Pacific Partners for Tobacco-Free Islands, and California Black Health Consortium in the room.

Thank you mightily to the American Legacy folk for pulling us together, this time and sharing is really valuable. Special shoutout to Laura and Amber — two women who have really been true leaders in moving disparity work to a new level.

Right now while the info is fresh, let me capture some of the policy priorities each network and group is laying out.

Roundtable review — What are biggest policy priorities of the disparity networks?

National African American Tobacco Prevention Network

  • Menthol, menthol, menthol — it affects so many disparity populations but it’s really a huge problem that 70% of AA/Bl youth use menthol cigarettes and yet FDA is still dragging their feet on banning it. And the Surgeon General’s report that just came out all but buried the issue (did you see Joseph Califano’s oped yesterday accusing the Surgeon General of setting up a “Pink Panther” public health policy — bumbling around like inspector Clouseau seeing menthol has a smoking gun but somehow not fingering it as the culprit behind youth smoking.)
  • Just to note — the issue of Voter IDs is a big community level concern. (dya know about that? this may be one of the biggest social justice fronts in the country right now)
  • California Black Health Consortium is really focusing on the link between cancer and tobacco use now, especially how it relates to upcoming policies.

Praxis Project

Never heard of them? We love Praxis, they’re a crosscutting organization that works across many disparity communities. We had their sharp new Field Director joining us, AyeNay Abye.

  • Continually redirecting these policymaker meetings from the too common “we’re serving your communities, why aren’t you or your communities doing more to help us” — to the more productive “this is what needs to occur for our communities to be really engaged/served.”
  • Praxis is doing a lot of work combining food justice with tobacco and social justice work in local communities, as always they concentrate on training and supporting local advocates.
  • Praxis believes in order to improve the health of communities we all must resource the communities who are doing local work, organizing their community and building the local political infrastructure for community engagement.

Poverty network aka Breakfree Alliance

  • Lots of activity recently about policies in correctional facilities — they’ve got a new webinar about it a policy paper
  • Lots of focus on tobacco policies for homeless providers — another new webinar on that, a few policy papers, and a research study coming soon about a study of homeless providers including information about how cigarettes are sometimes used to entice homeless people into care.
  • Dual tobacco use, especially for low SES populations — they just did a panel on this in West Virginia and a paper on it will come out soon.
  • As many of you know, they have continued to grow their best practices conference into a bigger and better event every year.

Native Network

  • Keep it Sacred campaign is a big push — with 560 tribes in the U.S., they are really trying hard to build resources that any of the tribes can use.
  • Self-administering the Adult Tobacco Survey — with multiple issues of sovereignty, they are pushing to get as many of the tribes as possible to administer the survey in the first place, but then there’s another issue where many of the tribes do not have the trust base to share their data publicly.
  • Obviously as always — making sure the public discourse on tobacco explicitly names that we’re working to challenge commercial tobacco use, not traditional ceremonial tobacco use.
  • Getting tobacco control policies adopted across more tribes.
  • The Native Network staff person wasn’t able to attend, so we have two new (to me) reps here from the Cherokee Nation, the largest tribe in the U.S. so they gave a few policy priorities for their own tribe:
    • They’ve been successful in providing cessation resources, getting smokefree schools, and now they’re starting to institute compliance checks at smokeshops.
    • For Cherokee nation specificially — countering pre-natal tobacco use, which has been reported to be as high as 49%.
    • For Cherokee national specifically — pushing for smokefree gaming sites. They were very close to achieving it before their tribal gov’t changed.
    • They have a youth conference every year, and a growing general tobacco conference that is now becoming the convening points for all tribal tobacco advocates.

Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL)

  • APPEAL’s policy work is on 4 levels: community, mainstream institutions, legislative and corporate levels.
  • Countering the growing stereotype that AA/PI people are the “model” minority that doesn’t experience disparities, or is not in need of efforts to eliminate such disparities.
  • Hand in hand with that — ensuring data is disaggregated to show the fabric of the strengths and weaknesses of the widely varying AA/PI communities. Smoking is high among Asian American subgroups and tobacco use high among native HI/pacific islanders.
  • Ensuring disparity work is injected into many levels of policy, like trying to get more attention on disparities at the national conference. Their parity work on mainstream institutions builds off of the 2002 NCOTH when they formed Parity Alliance and were able get parity adopted as theme of that national conference.
  • Convening cross-culturally – leading a multi-year effort in Minnesota to provide technical assistance across networks and train leaders, partnering with African American Leadership Council and Breakfree Alliance in California to do leadership training and organizing around cancer in California, etc.

Pacific Islander special update

Nia Aitaoto from the Pacific Partners for Tobacco Free Islands gave a great way to visualize the challenges in working across these islands: “Take the state of Rhode Island, throw it up in the air, split it into thousands of islands and now scatter it across an ocean the size of two continental United States, now you have the Pacific Islands.” She points out too that it costs $5k to fly one person to DC, and they are sometimes working with islands where electric service is spotty, or phones are rare.

  • Policy priority? Countering PI invisibility! One of their consistent challenges is the bundling of AA/PI at the policy level — because native Hawai’ian and pacific islander work is so distinct from Asian mainland work, so the coalition tries hard to ensure AA/PI awards actually include PI and that their larger tobacco challenges aren’t lost in the national discussions.

Bit o’ youth update

One of the hotshots already at yesterday’s FDA meeting was Ritney Castine, he’s quite an impressive young man who’s current Legacy’s youth board rep and soon moving to work for Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Ritney gives us a bit o perspective on the youth organizing in tobacco control now.

  • Changing the perspective of youth as the group you might fund if you have money left over — to one where people realize how early youth engagement consistently returns great dividends. Ritney points out how all the youth in the recent Legacy Youth Activism Fellowship achieved their own personal policy challenge campaigns — Ritney personally took on and succeeded in getting not only his university but the full multi-site Southern University campus to go smoke-free.
  • He reminds us all — engage the youth early and be sure they are heard and supported and not just tokens. We need to invest in our leaders.

National Latino Tobacco Control Network

  • Texas is a big focus area — this state has the highest population of Latinos in the U.S. and is not covered by any clean indoor air regulations.
  • They are doing lots of policy work in California too, they are just now throwing a series of policy change events focused on Latinos in southern California.
  • They are also participating with APPEAL and us as a partner providing technical assistance for the state disparity networks in Minnesota.
  • They’ve been doing lots of work to help support LGBTT Latino organizers in Puerto Rico, helping support their data collection and now their upcoming second annual LGBTT health conference.

Oh, and what about us?

Network for LGBT Health Equity

  • We have been trying to work very upstream with policy changes, because we find this is what unlocks the funding needed to create much needed local programs. So, we spend lots of time going to DC and popping up and saying “What about LGBT people, are we included?”
  • We have and will continue to have a big data collection focus — as one big success on this last year feds identified us as one of the key players in their decision to finally add LGBT data collection to the National Health Interview Survey.
  • We have a large focus now on influencing not just the disparities funding, but changing the structures of the mainstream funding so it really has a substantive inclusion for disparity populations, see this and this.
  • We are also running our large campaign to tailor the MPOWER model for LGBT best practices and cull those best practices from all the amazing LGBT local work being conducted.
  • And we have had a big emphasis on getting LGBT tobacco disparities injected into the media.

3 thoughts on “Update — Current Policy Priorities of the Tobacco Disparity Networks

  1. Thanks! A nice piece about diverse populations and our health priorities in one page – thanks for capturing these.

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