I suppose that on it's own, that's not a particularly strange thought. Throughout my life, most people would probably consider me a social smoker. I smoke when I'm drunk, when I'm around friends who are smoking, when I'm upset. Especially when I'm upset. Always when I'm upset.
But lately, I've been trying much harder to quit; not the usual, "Yea, yea. It's so bad for me. I know. I should stop," but a much more adamant, "I no longer want to do bad things to myself and this is definitely bad for me and an unhealthy pattern that is empowering to break."
Most people who have ever sat through a lecture on LGBT health issues probably know that queer women have a higher rate of smoking than the general population. We smoke as a coping mechanism for stigma. We smoke because it's a community norm. We smoke because we have internalized self-hate and don't feel like we deserve to be healthy. We smoke because compared to many of the other issues that plague the LGBT community, smoking just doesn't seem like that big of a deal. We smoke because it's "masculine." We smoke more because smoking cessation programs are rarely culturally sensitive. Tobacco companies specifically target LGBT communities.
It's not that tobacco companies don't advertise heavily to all demographics and tailor their advertisements accordingly, that makes them so effective. It's that when straight folks see an ad, it's just one of the millions of ads that surround them. LGBT folks, we're so hungry for acceptance, our representations so few, that queer friendly ads are like water for a person dying of thirst. Allies are few. Financial support is spotty. Opposition is high. Not surprisingly, the LGBT community is fiercely loyal.
And that's a good thing. Our allies must know that our support matters; that if we say we'll mobilize and support an issue, that it will be significant. But we have to be loyal to ourselves first and that means allying only with folks that will truly benefit our community, not tobacco and beer companies that exploit our marginalization.
Will I smoke again? Probably. Probably less and eventually, insha'allah, none. My next tattoo: Don't let other's people's prejudices give you COPD too.
on smoking in lgbt communities and tobacco advertising: http://www.lgbttobacco.org/
on increased nicotine levels in cigarettes targeted for minorities and teenagers: