FDA · LGBT Policy · Tobacco Policy

FDA Launches Youth Anti-Smoking Campaign, with LGBT Effort to Follow



Corey Prachniak is an LGBT rights, HIV policy,
and healthcare attorney. 
He serves on the Steering Committee
of the Network for LGBT Health Equity
and tweets @LGBTadvocacy.


This morning at the National Press Club in Washington, the Food and Drug Administration unveiled a $115 million anti-smoking campaign aimed at youths – the first-ever such campaign in the FDA’s history.  Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, explained that the effort would specifically target “on-the-cusp youth smokers,” aged 12 to 17, who either had recently begun smoking or who were open-minded to trying it.

Mitch Zeller, Director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, noted that when compared to regular smokers, these “at risk teens are even harder to reach because they don’t even see themselves as smokers.”  Instead, they believe that they are only casual users who will not get hooked.

I had the opportunity to ask the panel about their plan to prevent smoking among LGBT youths.  Much as Director Zeller noted that at risk youths don’t consider themselves smokers, many youths might not consider themselves LGBT, and are instead are still processing how they feel or working on coming out.

Responding to my question, the Center’s Director of the Office of Health Communication and Education, Kathy Crosby, said, “We understand that there are sensitivities and we understand that there are cultural issues, as well,” in reaching LGBT teens.  Crosby noted that while the campaign on the whole targeted youths aged 12 to 17, they will launch a subsequent LGBT campaign that may instead focus on 17 to 18-year-olds who are more likely to identify as LGBT.  The hope is that by targeting that subgroup, the message will trickle down to younger teens who are entering the LGBT community.

Ms. Crosby noted that this LGBT sub-campaign is still in the initial stages of development, and will likely take one to two years to take off.  Director Zeller added that the LGBT effort will have “similar themes” to the broader campaign being launched this month, but will be “more targeted” to LGBT youths.100_4885

Directing anti-smoking efforts at LGBT youths is necessary given that the LGBT community has long been a target of tobacco corporations – and has disproportionately high rates of tobacco use to show for it. According to research recently compiled by the Network, LGBT people smoke at a rate that is 68% higher than the population as a whole.  Although the LGBT community spends $7.9 billion – with a “b” – on tobacco products each year, crucial Surgeon General reports on smoking did not even mention LGBT people until a 2001 document entitled “Women and Smoking.”

The new FDA campaign, entitled “The Real Cost,” will “highlight the real costs and health consequences of tobacco use” by focusing on things that young people care about, such as outward appearance and having control over their lives, said Commissioner Hamburg.  The FDA’s research – which will continue for two years as they track 8,000 teens exposed to the ad campaign – revealed that these concerns are more relevant to young people than are long-term consequences, such as heart and lung health, that seem too distant to be real threats.

“It’s different than what we’ve heard before,” said youth activist Daniel Giuffra, “and I think teens will respond to this.”  By using social media in addition to traditional media buys, Mr. Giuffra believes the campaign will “get a conversation started, something we haven’t been able to do before.”

It is a conversation that the LGBT community – and their advocates – desperately need to have.


Conferences · FDA · LGBT Policy · Monthly Updates · Staff/Program Updates · Tobacco Policy

Tobacco Control year in review and 2014 sneak peek!

Daniella b&w headshot

National Partner’s and Disparity Network’s meeting
Keeping you in the loop!

Hello Network!

Scout and I just returned from the Disparity Networks and National Partner’s meeting in lovely Atlanta. And, as always, we brought you back lots of updates and juicy tidbits!

The Disparity Network meeting started with us meeting the two new networks: The YMCA representing low SES, and (org name?) representing mental health, which is a new disparity population this round.

Check out all of the 2013 -2017 CDC disparity Networks: (click the logo to check out their website)

Welcome aboard everyone!















Tim McFee, the Director of the Office of Smoking and Health, started the National Partner’s meeting off with a look back over the past year of tobacco-control…


Here are some notable findings:

1. Disturbing trends in the use of electronic cigarettes, hookahs and cigars among middle and High school students

So…What does this mean? We need more monitoring/prevention around non-conventional tobacco products.

2. More than half of all states have comprehensive smoke-free laws!

3. Good progress in increasing clean indoor air coverage…Second hand smoke work at the state level has slowed, BUT it has increased at the local level!

4. Ongoing fight for tobacco control funding:

         -12 states increased their tobacco funding this year!

        – BUT, there was also defunding in a few states (WA went to $0)

5. Lots of activity and concerns about e-cigs (more on this soon!)



– The 50th anniversary of the surgeon general’s report!!!

– Release date is early January 2014, so stay tuned!

– Updated Tobacco Control Best Practices

– Three exciting new media campaigns:

  1. Next Phase of CDC’s TIPS
  2. FDA Youth Campaign
  3. Next phase of Legacy’s TRUTH campaign
FDA · Resources · Tobacco Policy

Getting cozy with the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act

The Network for LGBT Health Equity
An insider’s view of informative info…

Hello all!

Over here at the Network we are VERY impressed with the user-friendliness of the FDA’s website on the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Act.

The Act, which became law in June 2009, gives the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate the manufacture, distribution, and marketing of tobacco products to protect public health in the United States. The Tobacco Control Act does many things, including restricting tobacco sales to youth, inspection of tobacco companies, requires warning labels on tobacco products, and much more. For a full overview of the Act, click HERE.

The infograph, seen below, illustrates the history, rationale and major events associated with the Act.

(You can also download and print the infograph!)

And, if you want to poke around the Act or look up information, you can search by “audience”, “types of tobacco” and “topics” or the table of contents.

FDA · LGBT Policy · Minnesota · MPOWERED · Netroots Nation · Presentations · Puerto Rico · Resources · social media · Steering Committee · Summit · Technical Assistance · Tobacco Policy · White House

March Updates from the Network

March has been yet another busy month for the Network. We are pleased to announce the launch of two major projects from the Network. First, Joseph Lee of our Steering Committee is helping us launch MPOWERED best and promising 

practices review, an effort to collect lessons learned in the field of LGBT Tobacco Control. The final document will be launched at our Summit, the 8th National LGBT Health Equity Summit, in Kansas City this August. Second, at long last the Network is pleased to announce the launch of our new website www.lgbthealthequity.org. Although we are still working on the last small details, we are very pleased to have this new resource up and running for the field.

Our staff was active this month in a few different events. First, Scout attended the FDA Research Summit. At it we got one win from a prior action alert – FDA agreed to collect at least LGB (not yet T) data on their new historic NIH tobacco research project. He recaps the important aspects of the summit here: FDA Tobacco Research Meeting – Upshot & Action Needed Now!

Pakou, Sarah, and Ditra giving us the inside line

He also attended the TAPP-INTO convening of state disparity networks in Minnesota (we have a long term contract to provide tech assist to these networks). See one of the key lessons from their sustainability training here: What do funders want? Gustavo was also out training, he presented on making practices welcoming to LGBT patients at the first ever Sharing Best Practices in GLBT Health training sponsored by the Sylvie Ratelle Prevention and Training Center of Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Most recently, staff attended the FDA Tobacco Policy Center disparities listening session hosted by our friends at Legacy, with the sister tobacco control networks and partners across the country. The next day, Legacy convened the disparity groups to strategize together. Watch to see us roll out more coordinated menthol advocacy in the near future, and read about the other policy priorities here: Disparity Networks Plus.

There have been some major events this month that the Network has been promoting. First, partnering with our friends at Shift MN, we celebrated Kick Butts Day. We had two great posts from MN Youth from Shift MN showcased posts on our blog; Dangerous Swagger and Breathe… Standing Up Against Corporate Tobacco. The Network has also helped promote the Coalition’s Health Awareness Week. Most notably, we have helped spread the news on two major tobacco events: the rollout of the first national tobacco education campaign and the release of the Surgeon General’s Report on youth smoking. Also this month, the Network campaigned to help one of our bloggers, e.shor, run for and ultimately win a scholarship to Netroots Nation. The network also highlighted some world tobacco news, as Brazil announced the ban of flavored cigarettes including menthol. According to a report from the National LGBTQ Youth Adult Tobacco Project, 71%33.9% of current smokers smoke menthols and an astonishing 82.6% of African American smokers smoke menthols. In addition, a disproportionate number of Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and multiracial smokers smoke menthols compared to white smokers.
of LGBT youth who smoke cigarettes smoke mentholated cigarettes. If FDA stepped up and also banned menthol in the U.S. it is likely the single most important action that could be taken to deter youth smoking. Also, we continue to highlight local projects, like this one on David Mariner’s tobacco and HIV project, and provide policy insight on our blog, like with our post on LGBT funding announcements and our heads up on things we expect to see soon from HHS.

We are very pleased to report that one of the requests we made with our Puerto Rico allies in January’s Department of Justice meetings has already come about, FBI and DOJ officials have been deployed to Puerto Rico to conduct additional listening sessions with community members with a promise of official trainings to follow. Read more about it here.

In other notes, we also got the news our PCORI application submitted a few months ago did not get funded and we are currently seeking nominations for two new Steering Committee members. Also catch our nice rundown of last year’s accomplishments here: Highlights of Network Accomplishments Over Past Year.

Finally, you know we blog a lot, and perhaps you’ve noticed we’re also trying to get more media attention to LGBT tobacco and wellness issues. We’re happy to announce a great outgrowth of both of those efforts; Scout has become an official Huffington Post blogger! Read his first two pieces New ‘Additional Feature’ for Health Insurance Finder: Same-Sex Coverage & White House Creates a Watershed Moment for LGBT Health and be sure to watch for more.


Brazil Leading The World in Tobacco Control By Banning The Sale Of Flavored Cigarettes Including Menthol

Gustavo Torrez
Program Manager
Brazil Leading the World in Tobacco Control
 The Brazilian Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (National Health Surveillance Agency, Anvisa) announced its decision on Tuesday to ban the sale of flavored cigarettes across the country.

The agency is banning all additives in cigarettes that create flavors like menthol, honey, cherry, tutti-frutti and chocolate, saying the additives used are what lure young people to start smoking in the first place.

Interestingly, tobacco industry representatives are also in favor of banning these additives that create flavored cigarettes (whats the catch you ask), they wanted to continue producing menthols, saying there is no scientific proof that substances in that particular flavor make cigarettes more addictive. Tobacco Control advocates can agree that menthol is a huge issues here in the States and that a menthol ban would greatly benefit public health and communities severely impacted by menthol tobacco use and help to curb youth smoking rates.

Flavored cigarettes can still be exported out of Brazil to be sold elsewhere, and sugar can still be added to Brazilian-made cigarettes and those imported into the country. The tobacco industry will have 18 months once the decision is officially published to remove their flavored cigarettes from the national market, and 24 months to pull other flavored tobacco products from shelves. Hopefully there will be evaluation early on to see the effects the ban, and the the impact it has on the young people of Brazil.

We all know that the tobacco companies have long targeted specific populations with menthol and flavored cigarettes, which can be seen by the high rates of menthol use among youth, African Americans, Latinos and LGBT populations. Next time you go to your local corner store do a brief evaluation of the tobacco advertisements and product placement and I can almost guarantee that menthol advertisements and placement  is more predominant over other products. Even more so in communities of color.

According to the American Lung Association, “Use of menthol cigarettes is disproportionately high among African Americans. Almost 84 percent of African Americans smokers aged 12 years or older reported smoking a mentholated brand of cigarette compared to 24 and 32 percent of their Caucasian and Hispanic counterparts, respectively.”

According to Legacy, “33.9% of current smokers smoke menthols and an astonishing 82.6% of African American smokers smoke menthols.  In addition, a disproportionate number of Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and multiracial smokers smoke menthols compared to white smokers.”  (see graph on right)

According to a report from the National LGBTQ Young Adult Tobacco Project (PDF), 71 percent of LGBT youth who smoke cigarettes smoke menthol cigarettes.

From a study at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, “Overall, menthol smoking was more common among females and young adults, ages 18 to 24. Menthol smoking varied considerably by race/ethnicity; among blacks, 71.8 percent smoked menthols, which is significantly greater than whites (21 percent) and Hispanics (28.1 percent). However, among Hispanics there were wide variations. Menthol smoking was more common among those of Puerto Rican descent (62 percent) than among those of Mexican (19.9 percent) and other Hispanic origins (26.5 percent).” and “The study further found that menthol cigarette smoking was associated with lower levels of smoking cessation compared to non-menthol smokers, and this relationship was more pronounced among blacks and those of Puerto Rican descent.” Based on the study findings, the authors stated “Because our evidence suggests that the presence of menthol may partially explain the observed differences in cessation outcomes, the recent calls to ban this flavoring would be prudent and evidence-based”.

As you can see communities of color and LGBT communities are smoking menthol at alarming rates. We can only hope that the FDA will follow Brazils lead and ban menthol. We know the tobacco industry is going to fight a US ban on menthol and create “science” to show that there is “no scientific proof that substances in that particular flavor make cigarettes more addictive”. The thing we all know is that if the Tobacco Industry fights hard for something there is obviously a reason for that and we cannot let the tobacco industry win. We need to ban together and fight this issue, and support efforts to regulate/ban menthol use for the health of our communities.

Data · FDA · Funding · Resources · Tobacco Policy · Uncategorized

Makin’ those connections: The Surgeon General Report and LGBT Youth

By Daniella Matthews-Trigg
Program Associate
Makin’ those connections: The Surgeon General Report and LGBT Youth

Happy Friday!

Yesterday was the release of the 31st tobacco-related Surgeon General Report. The surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, held a call to answer questions about the whopping 920 page document. The report focuses on the pervasive issue of smoking among youth and young adults, ages 18-25 (but let’s be honest- younger too). The report covers the epidemiology, causes, and health effects of  tobacco use in this population, as well as interventions that can be used to prevent it.

On the call, Dr. Benjamin talked about prevention being the key to stopping the “smoking epidemic”- 99% of smokers begin before age 25, so if we can get youth to remain smoke free until age 26, only 1% will start to smoke.

People on the call asked some interesting questions, which sparked some good conversations. Some things discussed included tobacco-control funding being cut on local levels because of current economic strains, smokeless tobacco products (which are seen to be “less bad”, but still contain NICOTINE. Additionally, use of smokeless products and cigarettes are almost always “dual use”), the importance of mass media interventions (Aiming interventions at youth “trend setters” who influence youth culture – hipsters, counter-culture and bar-scene crowds), and how smoke free policies lead to smoke free norms, which in turn help with the overall effort of tobacco control.

I think that this report is especially exciting and pertinent to the work that we are trying to do here at the Network. There is not much data out there about smoking and LGBT youth, but you better believe the rates are even higher than the already ridiculously high numbers of non-LGBT youth smokers. And we know that things like depression, bullying, not feeling supported, being stressed, not fitting in, etc., affect our LGBT youth AND are direct contributors to smoking.

In this moment where there is a lot of national focus on youth, around issues such as tobacco and bullying, I think it’s high time we put our heads together and made some serious connections between the problems that are in front of us, and the reasons that these problems exist- whether it is systemic homophobia, omnipotent corporations, whatever….There is amazing work that is being done, with people full of experience and knowledge. I think this is a perfect time for EVERYONE to get on board and who knows? Maybe we’re on the way to making a HUGE difference…

Hope everyone’s weekend is lovely!


Oh! And here are some useful links:

The Whole Shebang (all 920 pages ready to be downloaded)

Executive Summary


Fact Sheet

Action Alerts · FDA

ACTION ALERT**PLEASE** email FDA now and ask for consistent LGBT inclusion.


Please email: workshop.ctpos@fda.hhs.gov and say – “Please create minimal dataset that includes measures for all vulnerable populations, including LGBT people, across ALL your funded research. Please make sure coming Centers of Excellence include a vulnerable population focus that also includes LGBT people.”

The backstory:

  • Many of you know I’m at the FDA meeting today and we’re hearing about buckets of tobacco research work unfolding via their hands.
  • Happy to say we’ve got one WIN – They confirmed that LGB (not yet T) data will now be collected on their new tobacco megastudy!
  • BUT — they are rolling out research all over the place, including new Tobacco Centers of Excellence, LGBT could be masked in all that work!

Can you please take just a few seconds and email them asking to please consistently include LGBT and all their target vulnerable population data collection in all of their funded research projects, including those new tobacco centers of excellence!

Again: workshop.ctpos@fda.hhs.gov – say something like “Please ensure all your funded research collects LGBT data and that the coming Centers for Excellence include research on LGBT tobacco disparities.”

Please, we know these make a difference!

Or just enter your information and comments below and they will automatically be sent to workshop.ctpos@fda.hhs.gov.