Since the 1980s, the tobacco industry has targeted gays and lesbians in their marketing. “Big Tobacco” exploits our sexuality by eroticizing tobacco use in ads and attempts to gain our trust by posing as “friends” of the community. This industry spends about $14 billion a year on marketing, focusing on us by advertising in our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) media; sponsoring our community events; and aligning itself with the community on social issues we are passionate about, such as marriage equality.
We all know it isn’t always easy being queer, and some may start smoking to take the edge off. According to national polls, LGBT women smoke up to 200 percent more than their heterosexual counterparts. Furthermore, research suggests that this may be due to the stress of social stigma or the social norms within the LGBT community.
Here in D.C., quitting can be difficult, especially given the active social scene. We are always up for brunch and happy hour. And, wherever the ladies are, that’s where we want to be. For a lot of queer women, smoking can be a social lubricant, allowing us to strike up a conversation with that hot girl we’ve been eyeing all night, simply by asking, “Got a light?”
Quitting is the single most important change a smoker can make to improve the length and quality of her life.
Why should you quit? First, for your own health! Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the United States, resulting in an estimated 30,000 LGBT deaths per year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women who smoke increase their risk of dying from lung cancer nearly 12 times. Just 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal. In addition, quitting can literally add years to your life (about 10–20) by reducing your risk of lung and other cancers, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.
Second, as soon as you quit, you and your loved ones can begin to breathe easier. Secondhand smoke is dangerous and can have particularly harmful effects on children and pets living with smokers. Have you ever heard of third-hand smoke? It comprises the residual nicotine and chemicals left by tobacco smoke on indoor surfaces like furniture, bedding, clothing, and toys, prolonging your family’s exposure to these toxic substances.
Also, it’s becoming more inconvenient to smoke. More clean air laws are being passed across the country, making it illegal to smoke in bars and restaurants, leaving smokers out in the cold (or in the blazing hot heat).
If these aren’t enough reasons, then how about the economy? It’s getting more expensive to smoke. In the Washington, D.C., area, a pack of cigarettes can cost around $9.00. Even if a pack costs $5.00 where you live, smoking a pack per day adds up to $1,825.00 every year. That money could be better spent on bow ties and lady-dates.
Think you’re ready to quit smoking? Every smoker has their own personal reasons for quitting. Think about what is most important to you, and when you decide to quit, don’t go it alone. There are plenty of resources in the D.C. area to help you. Both Mautner Project (www.mautnerproject.org) and The DC Center (www.thedccenter.org) offer cessation support for the LGBTQ community. In addition, the D.C. Quitline (800-QUIT-NOW) provides free phone counseling and nicotine replacement tools. It’s also great to consult with your doctor before beginning your journey because the use of patches or nicotine gums can affect everyone differently. Your physician can help create a program that will work best for you and be there to monitor and modify your plan as needed.
1. Get support. Tell your friends and family that you are quitting. Ask them not to smoke around you or to quit with you. Get FREE support from the D.C. Quitline (800-QUIT-NOW).
2. Make a plan. Throw away anything that reminds you of smoking: ashtrays, cigarette packs, and so on. See your health-care provider, make a plan to quit, and try your best to stick to it. Check out the American Medical Association’s action plan for an example.
3. Keep your mouth busy. Snack on fruits and veggies; chew sugar-free gum.
4. Keep moving. Start a new exercise program, instead of smoking. It will take your mind off urges and reinforce the fact that quitting helps to improve your lung capacity and overall health.
5. Remind yourself. Review your list of reasons for quitting. Put pictures of loved ones, even pets, on your list.
6. Realize that you might slip. Understand that if you do have a setback, it’s OK—just keep on quitting.