It’s been 15 years since tobacco-maker R.J. Reynolds launched Project SCUM in an effort to market to gay youths in San Francisco’s Castro district. Despite a noble effort from TheTruth.com to reveal this nefarious plan to the American public, it appears tobacco companies have done little to change their ways.
In a new report released by the American Lung Association, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are more likely to use tobacco more than their heterosexual counterparts due largely to tobacco-makers’ aggressive marketing campaigns to the GLBT community. Specifically, gay men are nearly two and a half times more likely to develop a smoking habit than straight men. Lesbians are twice as likely compared to straight women, and people who are bisexual appear to have the highest risk of all.
The tobacco industry has been a prevalent advertiser in the GLBT community for decades, with a heavy presence in gay bars, clubs, and newspapers. While tobacco advertisements have nearly disappeared from most mainstream publications, the American Lung Association says that’s not the case for gay newspapers and magazines. They also argue that direct marketing of tobacco products seems to happen more frequently within LGBT bars and clubs.
To be clear, GLBT persons are not genetically predisposed to picking up the habit – environmental factors are the cause. Furthermore, aggressive marketing tactics are not the only cause. The report also cites the unique stress that gays face as a contributing factor.