HRC Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings Explains How the Tobacco Industry Targets the LGBTQ Community

by Guest Contributors

Transgender rights activist and HRC Foundation Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings appears in a new video to share a disturbing example of how the tobacco industry takes aim at the LGBTQ community.

Transgender rights activist and HRC Foundation Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings appears in a new video to share a disturbing example of how the tobacco industry takes aim at the LGBTQ community.

“A tobacco company once planned to increase cigarette sales by targeting the gay community. They even called their plan Project SCUM,” says 16-year-old Jennings in the video for truth®, a youth tobacco prevention campaign.

For years the tobacco industry has made efforts to appeal to LGBTQ consumers through strategies such as targeted advertisements in LGBTQ press, event sponsorships, cigarette giveaways and free tobacco industry merchandise. They have also included LGBTQ pride themes in their advertisements and sponsored pride events to promote their products.

While the youth smoking rate is at a historic low of six percent, the LGBTQ community uses tobacco at much higher rates.

HRC’s “Preventing Substance Abuse among LGBTQ Teens” issue brief found that LGBTQ youth experiment with alcohol and other drugs occurs at twice the rate of their non-LGBTQ counterparts. HRC’s “Health Disparities among Bisexual People” issue brief also noted that bisexual adults have elevated rates of smoking and alcohol use compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

Additionally, research found that LGBTQ adults smoke at rates up to two and a half times higher than straight adults. LGB high schoolers are more than twice as likely to have smoked a cigarette before the age of 13, and about one in three transgender young adults smokes.

“We hear that smoking rates are lower, but what we don’t hear is that they are not lower across all these different communities,” said Director of HRC Foundation’s Children, Youth and Families Program Ellen Kahn at Truth Initiative’s 2017 Warner Series discussion. “The LGBTQ community needs to be educated about how they have been targeted.”

Jennings’ activism began at age six when she appeared on 20/20 with Barbara Walters. Now 16, she is stars in TLC's GLAAD Award-winning docu-series, "I am Jazz" and is one of America’s most well-known transgender youth. Jazz is the co-author of the book, I am Jazz, and released her memoir, Being Jazz, in 2016.

Click here to learn more about how the tobacco industry profiles the LGBTQ community.