For Immediate Release
May 2, 2016
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced the launch of a historic public education campaign aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco use among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young adults ages 18-24. Of the more than 2 million LGBT young adults in the U.S., more than 800,000 smoke occasionally. The “This Free Life” campaign is designed to specifically reach the occasional or “social” smokers in the LGBT community to help prevent tobacco-related disease and the loss of tens of thousands LGBT lives to tobacco use each year.
“We know LGBT young adults in this country are nearly twice as likely to use tobacco as other young adults,” said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products. “We want LGBT young adults to know that there is no safe amount of smoking. Even an occasional cigarette can have serious health implications and lead to addiction.”
There are a number of factors that contribute to the higher risk for tobacco use among LGBT young adults. The “coming out” process is a unique tobacco-use risk factor for LGBT young adults due to the actual and perceived social stigma, discrimination and anxiety experienced during this process. And data show that the “coming out” process faced by most LGBT young adults can lead to tobacco use and negative health consequences.
Research also indicates that many LGBT young adults can find a sense of community at LGBT bars and clubs, which sometimes provide environments conducive to tobacco use. Additionally, when some LGBT influencers — such as YouTube personalities, community bloggers and other nationally known figures — openly promote tobacco use, it further establishes tobacco use as a norm within the LGBT community.
“‘This Free Life’ is designed to challenge the perception that tobacco use is a necessary part of LGBT culture,” said Richard Wolitski, Ph.D., acting director of HHS’ Office for HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy. “The campaign shows LGBT young adults they can be the person they want to be and still live tobacco free.”
The process of accepting one’s LGBT identity and “coming out” to their friends and family leaves many LGBT young adults with a deep sense of resilience and passion to live their lives freely. “This Free Life” expresses this notion through the campaign’s tagline — “Freedom to Be, Tobacco-Free.” The campaign also uses authentic and credible messages to engage LGBT young adults by appealing to their core ideals, similar life experiences and common interests.
“This Free Life” launches in 12 markets in the U.S. this week using print, digital and out-of-home ads, as well as outreach at the local level to showcase tobacco-free behaviors and attitudes within the LGBT community. The $35.7 million campaign is funded by user fees collected from the tobacco industry, not by taxpayer dollars.
The new campaign is part of the FDA’s ongoing efforts to prevent death and disease caused by tobacco use and will complement the agency’s at-risk youth education campaigns. The FDA launched “The Real Cost” Smoking Prevention Campaign in February 2014, the “Fresh Empire” Multicultural Tobacco Prevention Campaign in October 2015, and “The Real Cost” Smokeless Tobacco Prevention Campaign in April 2016. The FDA’s campaigns are based on the best available science and are evaluated to measure effectiveness in preventing and reducing youth smoking over time.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.