By Adrian Shanker
Philadelphia Gay News
April 15th, 2020
Coronavirus 19 has halted our economy, drastically shifted our social lives, infected thousands and killed many. So why aren’t more LGBTQ people quitting smoking and vaping?
Our queer community consumes tobacco at double the rate of the majority population, a coping mechanism for the pervasive cultural experiences of bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence. That’s a long way of saying that the high tobacco use rates in our community aren’t the fault of LGBT people. No way, it’s the result of navigating our lives through a society that wasn’t made for us. But during the COVID-19 pandemic especially, these high smoking and vaping rates are leaving the LGBTQ community with increased vulnerabilities for the worst effects of this virus
The link between smoking and COVID-19 is well-established. The California Department of Public Health (CADPH) clearly outlines the problem. According to CADPH, First, smoking doubles the risk of respiratory infections. Then, smoking doubles the risk of getting sicker from COVID-19. This has been backed up by five research studies, including one that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine that says that smokers are 2.4 times more likely than non-smokers to get really sick from COVID-19.
The LGBTQ community has a storied history of becoming our own healthcare advocates. In the 1980s and 1990s, ACT-UP activists and others demanded appropriate responses to AIDS from the government, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare organizations and the media.
COVID-19 is very different. Hospitals are mobilizing, healthcare workers are courageously showing up to care for the sick, and the government is responding — even if many of us might find the government’s response to be lacking. There is a general understanding that many of us will be impacted by COVID-19 — that many of us will get infected. So why aren’t we talking about smoking? Why, when we know that smokers and vapers will experience much worse effects of COVID-19, and when we know that LGBTQ folks smoke at such disparate rates, is this not the cause du juor for our community? It should be. After washing hands (correctly and frequently) and social distancing, the next important action to keep our community safe is to quit smoking.
It’s not easy. And many people will attempt to quit a number of times before they successfully quit. But at a time when many of us are at home, this is a great moment to call 1-800-Quit-Now for free phone counseling to help quit tobacco.
The high smoking rates in our community will mean LGBTQ people will be hit hard by COVID-19. So take action into our own hands and quit smoking and vaping in light of this virus.
Adrian Shanker is an award-winning activist and organizer whose career has centered on advancing progress for the LGBT community. He has worked as an arts fundraiser, labor organizer, marketing manager, and served as President of Equality Pennsylvania for three years before founding Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA, where he serves as executive director. An accomplished organizer, Adrian has led numerous successful campaigns to advance LGBT progress through municipal nondiscrimination and relationship recognition laws and laws to protect LGBT youth from conversion therapy. A specialist in LGBT health policy, he has developed leading-edge health promotion campaigns to advance health equity through behavioral, clinical, and policy changes.