State Work

For Immediate Release- LGBT HealthLink Grades States on LGBT Tobacco Integration

December 10,  2014

For Immediate Release
Dr. Scout
(954) 765-6024

LGBT HealthLink Grades States on LGBT Tobacco Integration

Ft. Lauderdale, FL – December 10, 2014 – LGBT HealthLink today announced the first ever grades for state tobacco programs’ LGBT inclusion practices. The grades, based on a survey of best practices originally conducted in 2013 and updated this fall, represent an assessment of the overall progress each state has made in addressing inclusion, including policies, training, data collection, and community engagement. Grades span from “A” to “F”, with the average across states a “C+”.

LGBT people smoke at rates that are over 50% higher than the general population and experience profound health disparities in both cancer and smoking-related disease. The survey was developed to bring transparency to how successful states are at integrating this disproportionately affected population into their overall tobacco control work.

According to Daniella Matthews-Trigg, Administrator of LGBT HealthLink, “The results of this survey not only illustrate the work that needs to be done, but highlights the impressive efforts by many states. Our hope is that creating a system for comparison will motivate states to adopt as many best practices as possible, thereby improving acceptance and wellness in LGBTQ communities around the country”. LGBT HealthLink is offering resources to each state to improve their grades.

For several years, LGBT HealthLink (formerly the Network for LGBT Health Equity) has been circulating “Identifying and Eliminating LGBT Tobacco Disparities”, a document outlining the best practices for state programs in LGBT tobacco control, and working closely with states to implement them. These report cards are intended to gauge adoption of those best practices at a state level and create a baseline for future work.

The release of the report cards comes just after the CDC’s Office of Smoking and Health recently accepted applications from states for their next five years of tobacco funding. Dr. Scout, Director of LGBT HealthLink, noted that “In order to eliminate the LGBT smoking disparity, we need to make sure the tobacco control community targets us just like the tobacco industry already does.”

Matthews-Trigg emphasized how closely HealthLink is working with states improve their grades, “We are the people providing technical assistance to these states to do this well, so this is really a report card of our work as much as theirs. We look forward to continuing our work with the many amazing state representatives to get these grades even higher.”

View the report cards:

For more about the methodology and scoring:

 # # #

 LGBT HealthLink, a program of CenterLink, spreads LGBT wellness best practices across state and federal health departments and community organizations. LGBT HealthLink is one of eight CDC-funded tobacco and cancer disparity networks.

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers was founded in 1994 as a member-based coalition to support the development of strong, sustainable LGBT community centers. Serving over 200 LGBT community centers across the country in 46 states. Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, as well as centers in Canada, Mexico, China, Cameroon and Australia, the organization plays an important role in supporting the growth of LGBT centers and addressing the challenges they face by helping them to improve their organizational and service delivery capacity and increase access to public resources.

Data · Resources · state · State Work · Tobacco Policy

Sassy new ad and infograph highlight LGBT smoking disparity in California



Brian Davis, Project Director
Freedom From Tobacco





New video and infographic resources were unveiled by California’s anti-tobacco partners for the LGBT community to address the disproportionate impact of tobacco within the community.  In California, the LGB community has one of the highest smoking rates of any group; lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals are twice as likely to smoke as the straight population, based on data collected as part of the California Adult Tobacco Survey (CATS) from 2005 to 2010 through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

CATS does not currently identify Transgender status.  Future versions of the survey will hopefully rectify this problem, so that we will have more complete data on all of our communities in subsequent reports.  Although this limitation is by no means confined to California data, we do know from multiple sources that the LGBTQ population nationally smokes anywhere from 50% to 200% more than the general population.

Issues of highest concern:

  • The smoking prevalence of the California LGB population is twice as high as heterosexual adults (27.4 percent vs. 12.9 percent)
  • Lesbians smoke almost 3 times as much as straight women and gay men smoke almost two times as much as straight men.
  • LGB Californians are nearly twice as likely as straight Californians to let someone smoke in their homes even if they don’t smoke.

The goal of these materials is to inform and drive conversations to help the LGBT community come together to fight tobacco. The groundbreaking new video, which premiered to appreciative audiences at the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival last June, sends the all-important message that our community members can help each other break free from tobacco. Hopefully the video will help change the perception of tobacco addiction from primarily being viewed as an individual problem to instead being regarded as a serious concern for the entire community to address.

 CTCP infographic LGB4

 Check out TobaccoFreeCA for more info and ads!

Funding · LGBT Policy · Presentations · Pride · Resources · Staff/Program Updates · State Work · Technical Assistance · Updates

A Year In Review: Spotlight on North Dakota Department of Health Tobacco Prevention and Control Program



Gustavo Torrez
Program Manager
The Network for LGBT Health Equity

When I started working with the Network almost 4 years ago the first state I had the pleasure to visit was North Dakota. During my visit I conducted two LGBT Cultural Competency training one for their grantees, and another at their Annual Statewide Alcohol and Substance Abuse Summit. At that time they were thinking about strategies to include LGBT communities in their tobacco control work and have not looked back since. I had the privilege of going back and spoke at the 3rd annual statewide GLBTQA conference held at the University of North Dakota this past

Left to Right: Neil Charvat, Gustavo Torrez, Rep. Kayie Overson, Rep Josh Boschee, and Krista Headland
Left to Right: Neil Charvat, Gustavo Torrez, Rep. Kayie Overson, Rep Josh Boschee, and Krista Headland

April, and was overjoyed at the progress they have made over the past couple years in terms of community support for LGBT tobacco control efforts. At times we can see progress through emails and updates here and there, but to actually see the level of community support for LGBT Tobacco Control efforts was absolutely amazing. From local LGBT groups to State Representatives its was truly refreshing especially for a state like North Dakota.  Over the past couple of years work in North Dakota has not stopped, in fact the work has grown to include more and more folks in the community committed to LGBT Tobacco Control efforts in the state. Neil Charvat, Community Health Specialist with the Chronic Disease Program at the North Dakota Department of Health has truly made some huge strides in the state. Neil has been charged with the talk of LGBT inclusion efforts and has forged many partnerships which have truly shaped the direction of their efforts. Most recently, a great article was published North Dakota puts $2,500 in anti-smoking funds toward Fargo pride festival, highlighting some of these efforts.

I wanted to take a moment and showcase in depth some of the great work that has taken place over the past year, and thank Neil for his commitment to inclusion efforts in North Dakota. I am so proud of the work that he has not only accomplished, but how the Department has truly institutionalized LGBT tobacco Control efforts in North Dakota. Please read his article below as he article below –  Engaging Disparate Populations: North Dakota LGBT Communities.

Neil Charvat
North Dakota Department of Health
Tobacco Prevention and Control Program
Fiscal Year July 1, 2012 – June 30, 2013

Engaging Disparate Populations: North Dakota LGBT Communities

The Tobacco Prevention and Control Program (TPCP) in the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) work to engage populations disparately effected by tobacco use on a statewide level. One of the populations identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as having high tobacco use rates and being targeted by the tobacco industry is the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

Efforts to engage North Dakota’s LGBT communities in tobacco control efforts have been made since 2008, varying degrees of success. The main obstacle has been identifying LGBT groups in North Dakota. The NDDoH TPCP was fortunate to become involved in Fargo-Moorhead Pridefest for the first time in 2011. FM Pridefest is the largest LGBT event held in North Dakota. This initial effort was to provide NDQuits information and materials to event attendees. In 2012 the ND DoH was again invited to be a part of FM Pridefest. In July, NDQuits marketing tools were utilized at the FM Pridefest 5K Run-Walk, and that event was tobacco-free. NDQuits material and information were promoted at the FM Pride in the Park in August. ND DoH staff attended the event. The staff was able to promote cessation efforts as well as provide information about tobacco issues that directly affected the LGBT community in North Dakota.

NDDoH TPCP staff had the opportunity to meet with Julia Geigle at the University of North Dakota. Julia is a graduate student at UND working on LGBT health issues. The meeting was to discuss the issue of tobacco use in the LGBT community, and the health impacts that resulted from that use. Information on engaging the LGBT community and promoting NDQuits cessation services were provided to Julia. As a result of this meeting, Julia invited the TPCP staff to participate in a UND LGBT conference in April, 2013. NDDoH was able to involve Gustavo Torrez from the Fenway Institute in the UND Conference. Gustavo travelled to the conference to present on LGBT tobacco and health issues. Gustavo was also able to engage North Dakota legislators in attendance by providing information on LGBT health issues. The conference was well attended by the UND LGBT campus community. As a result of the success of this event, there are plans to incorporate more events like this into the newly created ND Campus Tobacco Prevention Project. This project will involve most college campuses in North Dakota.

The NDDoH TPCP will continue to engage the LGBT in future tobacco prevention work for the next fiscal year.

LGBT Policy · Resources · State Work · Tobacco Policy

California Elected Officals Take A Stand For Health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                               


(415) 436-9182


LGBT Partnership Announces List of California Elected Officials Who Have Taken a Stand for Health

73 state and local officials signed statements

that they would not accept tobacco industry contributions

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The California LGBT Tobacco Education Partnership (LGBT Partnership) today released its “Clean Money” list of state and local elected officials who have agreed to refuse tobacco industry contributions. Each official signed a statement that he or she would not accept donations from tobacco companies or distributors.

Tobacco use, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for nearly six million deaths in the world each year. “Many elected officials told us that they don’t want to have anything to do with the tobacco companies”, said Bob Gordon, member of the San Francisco Tobacco Free Coalition and Project Director of the LGBT Partnership. “They understand the terrible costs we all pay in terms of damaged health, lost productivity and shortened lives.” According to the national organization Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in California alone, the tobacco industry spends a half billion dollars every year to market itself, while Californians are left to shoulder $9.1 Billion annually in health care costs directly attributable to tobacco use.

Elected officials joined the signature campaign for several reasons. In a survey conducted by an outside evaluator, several officeholders indicated that the opportunity to sign the statement aligned with their interests. One indicated “This is a good opportunity for legislators to stand out in a positive way”. One staff member, before meeting with advocates, learned for the first time details about how the tobacco industry targets vulnerable populations “how it advertises to African Americans, Latinos, LGBTs, Asian Americans, and to a degree, to young kids—particularly disturbing”.

A full list of elected officials who have signed a no-tobacco statement is available at

About the California LGBT Tobacco Education Partnership

The California Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Tobacco Education is funded by California’s Tobacco Control Program.  The LGBT Partnership advocates for policies limiting tobacco industry donations and reducing the availability of tobacco.


Cultural Competency Trainings · LGBT Policy · Pride · Resources · State Work

DO Ask Do Tell: St. Louis Veterans Hospitals initiate LGBT cultural competency training program

Icon_2011 Headshot
Sherrill Wayland, MSW
SAGE: Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders
Metro St. Louis

Five years ago when SAGE Metro St. Louis first started providing outreach and trainings, the Veterans Administration (VA) St. Louis Health Care System was one of the last places we expected to be. Fast forward to 2013 and we find the VA St. Louis Health Care System as one of the leaders in creating LGBT welcoming health care in Missouri.

In 2012, the VA St. Louis Health Care System held the first ever St. Louis Veterans PRIDE Celebration. A standing room only crowd of Veterans and employees packed the room to hear a panel discussion, in which SAGE Metro St. Louis participated. At this meeting, SAGE extended a welcome to the employees to have a representative join the Missouri LGBT Health Roundtable, as a part of the Missouri LGBT Health Access Project. In turn, SAGE was asked to join the VA St. Louis Health Care Systems, LGBT Advisory Council as an ad hoc committee member.

Over the years, SAGE has received calls from LGBT Veterans, fearful that they would not receive care from the VA if their LGBT status was known during the time when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was in force. We also field calls from LGBT Veterans who feel they have been treated in a discriminatory or unwelcoming fashion. Today, we have a direct linkage to the VA St. Louis Health Care System that allows us to assist LGBT Veterans with gaining welcoming care in an environment that truly honors ALL Veterans.

Over the past year, the work at the VA St. Louis has grown to include a robust offering of LGBT Health Cultural Competency Trainings provided by VA St. Louis employees and SAGE. We are currently in the process of developing a schedule of trainings for SAGE to present on a monthly basis.

With the commitment and dedication of the St. Louis VA staff, LGBT Veterans health care and access is a priority. SAGE Metro St. Louis will honor the St. Louis Veterans Administration on June 1, 2013 with the first annual “SAGE Community Cares” Award for excellence in service to the LGBT community.

The groundwork established in partnership with the VA is invaluable as we begin moving forward with sustainable policy change initiatives that will positively impact our LGBT Veterans. Like many we understand the value in building partnerships to advance our movements, and while addressing the LGBT Veterans is mandated by the federal government, having a strategic partnership established will serve as a cornerstone in advancing LGBT health inclusion efforts at both VA hospitals in St. Louis.

“Our LBGT program includes comprehensive care and ongoing education of staff and health care providers about the unique healthcare concerns of our LGBT Veteran community. We believe all staff who are knowledgeable about the health care concerns of our LGBT Veterans are better able to serve our diverse Veteran population. As the Deputy Director of the VA St. Louis Health Care System,  I am extremely proud of the commitment our providers have shown to our diverse (Veteran) patient and employee population.”      – Marc Magill, Deputy Director

Pride · State Work

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


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, 🙂

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!

State Work

Nebraska Travelogue: Great LGBT Research Being Done Here


Scout, Ph.D.

Director, The Fenway Institute’s Network for LGBT Health Equity
My first meeting yesterday was with the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative, what an active group of folk! Loved hearing about their educational campaigns and was pretty impressed by the 700+ person survey Dr. Fisher and the others conducted a few years ago for a report on the health of LGBT Nebraskans. This survey was able to generate national coverage on the high suicide rates for local LGBT people, even some interesting information on how the suicide ideation persists into adulthood. Ugh. And not surprisingly, the other big news from it was the high smoking rates, 26% v. 20% for the rest of the state population. I also loved hearing about how they had such a large trans sample, no doubt in part because one of the researchers is openly trans, great job Dr. Irwin! I really look forward to his coming paper on the trans sample, we too rarely get information on trans people out of the biggest cities. Oh, and watch for another paper coming on tobacco use as well. I hope some of the ideas I offered on where to pursue research funding can help Drs. Fisher, Coleman, Irwin, and Jawed-Wessel and all their impressive graduate assistants keep the LGBT health research data rolling in!

L to R: Dr. Fisher, Dr. Irwin, Ms. Kneip-Pelster, Ms. Clausen, Mr. Taylor, Ms. McCarthy of the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative
L to R: Dr. Fisher, Dr. Irwin, Ms. Kneip-Pelster, Ms. Clausen, Mr. Taylor, Ms. McCarthy of the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative
social media · State Work

Nebraska Travelogue: Everyone Meet the National LGBT Expert Day


Scout, Ph.D.
Director, The Fenway Institute’s Network for LGBT Health Equity

I was up early and out late yesterday because Athena had a huge day planned for me in Nebraska, 7 meetings, 2 of them presentations. Athena is a lead on the Metro Omaha Tobacco Action Coalition, or MOTAC. MOTAC worked with local groups to sponsor this extra day in town for me, allowing them to set up a bunch of meetings with local folk working to do more in LGBT health/tobacco.

Tuesday Agenda

  • 9:30 – Meet with Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative
  • Noon – Lunch ‘N Learn Presentation at U of Nebraska College of Public Health “LGBT Tobacco Control: Lessons from a Disparity Population”
  • 1 pm – informal meeting with local tobacco coalition members
  • 2 pm – meeting with Dr. Su, Director of UNMC Center for Reducing Health Disparities
  • 4 pm – meeting with “A la familia” trainers
  • 6-8 pm – Dinner presentation with Heartland Pride on smokefree pride events

A lot of great stuff happened at these meetings, some of them are chewy enough to have their own posts, so I’ll do that. Sometimes resources we found out about in one meetings were able to be connected with ideas from the next meeting. At the Lunch N Learn presentation for the school of public health I focused on how tobacco education and linkages were used in creative ways to help advance a bunch of larger LGBT health issues at the national level – and why now I really believe the next forum for LGBT health gains is doing the same at state level. I had a great conversation with the head of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities that I hope might result in new LGBT research proposals. We had several good conversations about strategies for outreach to the LGBT Latin@ communities, because that’s a growing population here.

At the meet with the local tobacco control coalition I really respect the woman who brought up her discomfort with the plans for using drag performers to hand out awards at a coming tobacco control luncheon. That’s the kind of real honesty that helps us all grow. In this case, it was a chance for me to tell her about Rescue Social Change, the national group who’s doing so well using entertainers like this for health educational purposes, and how they even received a large award to expand their tobacco control media work.

Did you already see the Rescue Social Change Video about the recent event they did for us at the National Tobacco Conference? This is the event that gave the Nebraska folk the idea to hold their own Tobacco-Free Drag Diva contest here, it’s a must watch.

State Work · Technical Assistance

Nebraska Travelogue: Smokeless Diva Drag Pageant?


Scout, Ph.D.
Director, The Fenway Institute’s Network for LGBT Health Equity

Uh-oh met the great tobacco team over at U of Nebraska Medical Center and boy have they upped the game! Little did I know they already have an LGBT outreach person working on tobacco control, the great Ariss Rogel Mendoza. And our old friend Antonia Correa has been running a great Latinas Tabaco y Cancer group. And some of the Latina group were major drivers in organizing last weekend’s… no, I’m not lying… Smokeless Diva Drag Pageant. Wow! How many other states have community level LGBT tobacco control activities now? And the stories from it were great, the winner’s father died of lung cancer, so she went all out, even making dresses incorporating bits & pieces of tobacco marketing materials.

So if they’re already running tobacco control drag pageants here in Nebraska, my only question is… how in the world do I help move them forward?

Wow, so much glitter. The crowning of the smokeless diva drag queen!
Wow, so much glitter. The crowning of the smokeless diva drag queen!
Ariss, Antonia, & Athena - the Latina powerteam working on tobacco a U Nebraska Med Ctr - Ctr on DIsparities.
Ariss, Antonia, & Athena – the Latina powerteam working on tobacco a U Nebraska Med Ctr – Ctr on DIsparities.