Brian Davis, Project Director of Freedom From Tobacco Scholarship Blogger, Summit 2012 reflections A SHIFT happened in Minnesota
What a great presentation yesterday at the LGBTQ Health Equity Summit from the inspired youth of SHIFT Minnesota! SHIFT is run by and for LGBTQ youth, so they know that the best way to speak to other youth is through direct “not sugar coated” language (as one attendee put it). Here’s their mission statement:
“SHIFT charges forth on our valiant steeds and molds healthier LGBTQ* communities by severing ties with corporate tobacco through education, advocacy, and power-punching policy. We work in solidarity with all marginalized communities to fight against the ruthless, manipulative corporate tobacco agenda in the Twin Cities area.”
Two things about their project really struck me. First — the name, SHIFT, is brilliant. It gets to the heart of what all of us are trying to do in Queer tobacco control, which is to create a shift of consciousness in our community away from the embracing of smoking as part of who we are — as one of a list of “freedoms” that we are grabbing for ourselves despite society’s condemnation — and toward an understanding that smoking is a symptom of homophobia that tobacco companies capitalize upon at our expense and exclusively for their gain.
Secondly, I noticed that they always put “corporate” and “tobacco” together. This is similar to the way Native American tobacco control groups make a distinction between “commercial” and “sacred” tobacco. Their objective in doing this, as they explained, is to make spaces tobacco-free but warm and inviting to smokers. They want smokers to know that SHIFT is not about pushing people to quit, but about making people aware of what corporate tobacco is doing to our community.