The U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched a public education campaign today directed at preventing and reducing tobacco use among LGBT people between the ages of 18 and 24.
The "This Free Life" campaign, which is the largest LGBT-specific campaign the agency has ever taken up, is aimed at the more than 800,000 young LGBT people who smoke occasionally. The FDA is specifically targeting "social" smokers in its attempt to prevent tobacco-related disease. Tens of thousands of LGBT people die each year because of tobacco use, according to the FDA.
"We know LGBT young adults in this country are nearly twice as likely to use tobacco as other young adults," said Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products, in a press release. "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."
A press release from the FDA reports that the coming out-process puts young LGBT people at a "unique tobacco-use risk factor" because of the anxiety and discrimination that the experience brings out in some people. The statement also says that data indicates that the coming-out process can attract young LGBT people to "tobacco use and negative health consequences."
Many young LGBT people find a "sense of community at LGBT bars and clubs," which can create an environment that encourages tobacco use, reports the FDA in its release. LGBT youth are swayed by influencers, such as YouTubers, who "promote tobacco use," reports the FDA. The administration features YouTubers, such as Ingrid Nilsen, in one of the antismoking campaign videos for "This Free Life."
"'This Free Life' is designed to challenge the perception that tobacco use is a necessary part of LGBT culture," said Richard Wolitski, acting director of Health and Human Services' Office for HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, in a statement from the FDA. "The campaign shows LGBT young adults they can be the person they want to be and still live tobacco free."
Coming out is different for everyone, but the FDA argues that it can be a powerful experience that creates a "deep sense of resilience and passion to live their lives freely." The FDA says it chose to name its antismoking campaign "This Free Life" to evoke that resilient feeling in young LGBT people. The $35.7 million campaign launches in local and national markets this week. It is funded by user fees collected from tobacco companies, not tax dollars, says the FDA.
Watch a video from the campaign below, featuring stars from RuPaul's Drag Race.