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Homosexuals Target Tobacco Use on Health Awareness Week 

Jump to full article: Crosswalk.com News Channel, 2003-03-24
Author: Robert B. Bluey / Staff Writer


Tobacco companies are facing a barrage of criticism this week for allegedly marketing cigarettes to homosexuals, who smoke nearly twice as much as heterosexuals, according to some estimates.National LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Health Awareness Week kicked off Sunday with a focus on several problems facing homosexuals, from human papillomavirus and HIV to abuse and nutrition.Smoking is one of the targets as well. Just last fall, the American Legacy Foundation began running a series of its "truth" ads devoted exclusively to the issue of tobacco industry marketing practices directed toward homosexuals.

This week, smoking cessation programs are focusing attention on the issue. At the Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, D.C., a special "Out to Quit" effort is planned specifically for homosexuals.The issue itself is not new, particularly to homosexuals in California . . .

"It's an emerging concern," said Perry Stevens, a public relations consultant who used to work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's smoking and health office.

"Gays and lesbians should be aware that the industry is marketing to them right now, more than ever before," Stevens said. "Gays are smoking at a higher rate than straight people - in some studies, it's twice as high as heterosexuals. And if we're smoking at higher rates, it can only mean we're going to be dying at higher rates." . .

"Bars are a logical place for cigarette companies to interact with adult smokers," R.J. Reynolds spokeswoman Jan Smith said. "If the accusation is that we only go into bars that are particularly popular among the gay population, that's simply not true; we go to all kinds of bars." . .

If marketing is not the reason for increased smoking among homosexuals, other factors - including stress, depression and anxiety - could be, said Mary Beth Flournoy, clinical program manager for the Whitman-Walker Clinic's smoking cessation operation.

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