Pride · State Work

Nebraska Travelogue: How did Heartlands Pride Adopt New Tobacco Control Policy?


Scout

Scout, Ph.D.
Director, The Fenway Institute’s Network for LGBT Health Equity
Ariss on left and the whole Heartland Pride board. Beth's flashing the Pride toolkit, :)
Ariss on left and the whole Heartland Pride board. Beth’s flashing the Pride toolkit, šŸ™‚

Smokefree pride festivals are a great way to showcase our communities’ investment in keeping ourselves healthy. But as many know who’ve worked on getting their local pride’s smokefree, it can be a really long process. Habits die hard and you need to do a lot of education with the local organizers to help them understand the impact of smoking and how to transition the event to a new smokefree one. Luckily there’s a great step-by-step resource out there that Bob Gordon & others in CA developed, the Smoke-Free Outdoor Pride Event Toolkit. This was our goto resource when we presented to Interpride last year.

But sometimes locals write their own recipe for change. I am so happy to report the culmination of my Tuesday in Nebraska was a meeting with the Heartland Pride board where they agreed to a new tobacco control policy at pride!

So, what’s the Nebraska recipe for success? (please do not try this at home, these are trained professionals)

  1. Include dedicated staff time for LGBT outreach in state tobacco control efforts. Check.
  2. Hire Ariss Mendoza — a straight woman who’s had lots of experience with LGBT friends and has absolutely boundless energy
  3. Take notes (aka build relationship with policymakers by identifying something they need that you can offer) – when Ariss went to the Heartland Pride board meeting, she realized they needed a secretary, so she stepped in to take notes!
  4. Take baby steps — Ariss stepped in to take notes, but she also asked the organizers to officially partner with her tobacco-free group. They warned they wouldn’t go smokefree, but were fine with having an official partnership.
  5. Add food & some crazy outta town guy folk call an “expert” on LGBT health — Like I said my last meeting was a special presentation to Heartlands Pride board on smokefree prides. And of course since it was dinner time, Athena & Ariss picked a nice restaurant to have it at. As the board members arrived Ariss passed out the smokefree toolkits. And to my amusement, before dinner they were urging her to please apply to be a permanent board member. Everyone wants Ariss!
  6. Educate a bit, listen lots, & offer models — eventually we got around to talking about smokefree prides. In some ways it seemed such a natural outgrowth of all our talk about eating healthier, and swapping healthy recipes before. By then the Board Chair, Beth laid it out… “We can’t go smokefree in one year, but is there a middle ground?” Sure! I talked about how prides offered smokefree areas and how they sometimes rearranged their tables to offer a “wellness area”, put kid/family services there too and keep that all smokefree.
  7. Get outta the way as Pride changes their policies! — Beth and the others from Heartland Pride jumped at the ideas we laid out and ran with them. Of course Ariss agreed to organize the wellness area! We talked about maybe getting some folks from the Nebraska healthy living projects to maybe offer some exercise or healthy eating info. And the board went even further than our ideas, after discussing it they chose not to limit the smokefree space but instead limit smoking to a few designated areas! The loved how the wellness theme echoed with their pride theme, and we even figured out how to reframe their “keep hydrated” messages from the stage to larger wellness messages, so the theme will be echoed out all day. Excellent!
  8. Build support for totally smokefree pride next year — Ariss & others from the local tobacco free coalition will take a page from other’s work and get signors on a petition for pride to go totally smokefree next year. These petitions can help organizers see there’s support for the next step, a fully smokefree pride.

Again, great job all! I’d like to think I helped but frankly by the time I arrived it seemed like I was just watching two groups (pride & tobacco control) just finally agree on what they always wanted to do all along… so my hat’s off to the pride board and Ariss! In a few months every LGBT Nebraskan at pride will be able to breathe the sweet smell of change!

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