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2010-03-15: Longtime Queer Tobacco Activist Receives C. Everett Koop Unsung Hero Award

Long-time LGBT tobacco control activist to receive 2009 American Lung Association's
C. Everett Koop Unsung Hero Award

(San Francisco, June 18, 2009) Naphtali Offen, president of the Coalition of Lavender-Americans on Smoking and Health (CLASH) and University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) tobacco documents researcher, has been chosen to receive this year's American Lung Association's (ALA) C. Everett Koop Unsung Hero Award in recognition of his decades-long fight against the tobacco industry. Offen will receive the award at an ALA banquet at the Doubletree Hotel Mission Valley in San Diego on June 26.

Among his accomplishments, Offen co-founded CLASH in 1991 to call attention to the devastation that tobacco wreaks on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. His co-founder, Gloria Soliz, pioneered, at the same time, The Last Drag, the nation's first smoking cessation program for LGBTs. Together with long-time advocates Bob Gordon and Len Casey, they helped establish a local, national and international movement of LGBT tobacco control advocates.

Said Offen, "Tobacco is one of the leading preventable causes of death among LGBTs, if not the leading cause. I'm delighted that many LGBT elected officials and leaders of our community's organizations have signed CLASH's statement vowing not to accept money from the tobacco industry. They understand that LGBTs smoke twice as much as the general population; they see through the tobacco industry's pretense at friendship; and they hold the industry responsible for the toll on the community. I hope more community groups, especially those that provide AIDS-and other health-related services, recognize the inherent contradiction in accepting money from an industry that destroys our health."

Offen has also been a vociferous opponent of the recently-passed legislation giving the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limited oversight of tobacco. Said Offen, "Philip Morris is one of the architects of this bill. Tobacco documents reveal the company's plan to craft a bill favorable to its interests. Unless the FDA has unfettered authority to deal with tobacco based on the science—including the right to ban it—so-called FDA regulation may be seen as conferring a stamp of approval on cigarettes."

Nathaniel Wander of Edinburgh University, who nominated Offen for the award, said, "Naphtali's talent is stirring things up. Others talk about controlling the tobacco industry. Naphtali talks about eliminating it."

Offen is a recipient of the 2005 UCSF Chancellor's Award for GLBT Leadership. He was one of the leaders of the successful efforts to eliminate outdoor smoking at UCSF, to get the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to stop hosting smoking lounges at their annual banquets, to get KQED to stop airing promotional spots for Philip Morris, and to get the state of California's Smokers' Helpline to ask callers about sexual orientation and gender identity.

The C. Everett Koop Unsung Hero award is named in honor of the former Surgeon-General who has been a champion of tobacco control since his tenure in the 1980s.