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2010-03-15: Ohio to fund focus groups on LGBT teens and smoking

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Ohio health department to study tobacco habits of gay teens


Associated Press - February 3, 2008 2:05 PM ET

COLUMBUS (AP) - Ohio health officials will use a federal grant aimed at preventing tobacco use among minorities to study why gay and lesbian teenagers smoke at a higher rate than their straight peers.

Health officials are allocating $60,000 to identify the smoking habits of those teens and develop a tobacco-prevention campaign for them.

Ohio Department of Health spokesman Kristopher Weiss says gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community has a smoking rate at about 40 to 60%.

As part of the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Community Youth and Young Adults Anti-Tobacco Social Marketing Project, officials will form focus groups among youths ages 12 through 20 at an LBGT center in Columbus.

Angie Wellman, director of the Kaleidoscope Youth Center, a drop-in venue for LBGT youths here, estimated that 60 to 70% of the center's teen visitors smoke regularly.


On the Net:

http://www.lgbttobacco.org


Ohio health department to study tobacco habits of gay teens
By MEGHAN BARR Associated Press Writer

Published on Sunday Feb 03, 2008

Ohio health officials will use a federal grant aimed at preventing tobacco use among minorities to study why gay and lesbian teenagers smoke at a higher rate than their straight peers.

Health officials are allocating $60,000 to identify the smoking habits of those teens and develop a tobacco-prevention campaign for them.

"The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community has a smoking rate at about 40 to 60 percent, which is higher than the national rate," Ohio Department of Health spokesman Kristopher Weiss said.

While national statistics show smoking rates among gays and lesbians are nearly double that of the rest of the country, no Ohio-specific health data exist.

As part of the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Community Youth and Young Adults Anti-Tobacco Social Marketing Project, officials will form focus groups among youths ages 12 through 20 at an LBGT center in Columbus. Angie Wellman, director of the Kaleidoscope Youth Center, a drop-in venue for LBGT youths here, estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the center's teen visitors smoke regularly.

"It's definitely something we notice, just in terms of both tobacco use and other drug and alcohol use," Wellman said. "When we think about risky behaviors, our kids tend to be at higher risk for all those things just across the board."

Ohio joins a growing national effort to curb the number of gays and lesbians who light up. As of August 2006, 20 states said they were addressing the problem, according to a census conducted by the National LGBT Tobacco Control Network, a Boston-based nonprofit group.

Gay teens are more susceptible to adopting a nicotine habit as a coping mechanism when they come out to family and friends, said the network's director, Scout.

"It's kind of a vicious circle," said Scout, which is her full legal name. "A lot of people I knew started smoking in LGBT youth groups. People went outside to smoke together. That's when they picked up cigarettes."

In contrast to the general population, LGBT youth smoking rates aren't dropping, she said.

"I think it's a huge problem in LGBT communities, on par with the HIV epidemic," said Dr. Gary Remafedi, professor of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota.

Part of the problem can be attributed to a lack of medical data chronicling the gay and lesbian population, said James Beaudreau, an education and policy associate at the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

"Recently there's been much more interest among health departments targeting that group," he said.

The first known LGBT tobacco intervention program was The Last Drag, free quit-smoking classes founded in 1991 for LGBT and HIV-positive smokers, Scout said. Since then, state-funded and grassroots-level efforts have propelled the cause.

"We go to all the different bars, nightclubs, gay prides, any kind of festival in Las Vegas and try to promote a nonsmoking lifestyle," said Malcolm Ahlo, program director for Crush, an anti-tobacco nonprofit campaign in Nevada. "We're promoting that it's sexier to be smoke-free."

Crush sends its "street team" of scantily clad models out to spread the word, wearing underwear and dog tags featuring catch phrases like "smooth" and "fresh" _ a marketing strategy carefully tailored for gay youths. An online component even teaches gays and lesbians to quit through a series of text messages on their cell phones.

Ohio's effort is the first step in the right direction, Scout said. The health department is currently soliciting proposals from vendors until March 12.

"Part of (why they smoke) is to fit in, a part of it is to deal with some of the awkward or isolating feelings that they're having," said Wellman. "But I also don't think they are completely oblivious to all of the health information that's put out there."

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On the Net:

http://www.lgbttobacco.org