By Alicia ‘Kunto’ Howard
At Creating Change, the largest national LGBTQ conference, I collected data around willingness to stop smoking tobacco. I collected the opinions of smokers who identify as LGBT to discover their thoughts about tobacco usage and prevention. According to the Director of the Network for LGBT Health Equity, tobacco use is one of the biggest health issues impacting the LGBT community. Recently released data from the CDC states that smoking rates for the LGBT population are 70 percent higher than the general population. Hence, their reflections around the reasoning for this high statistic warrant interest. My questions consisted of interest in quitting, confidence in quitting and the importance of quitting. Sixty-one individuals gave their opinions.
Each question represented its own perspective, which depending on the individual, did not intersect with the thoughts from the other questions. For instance, one who is not interested in quitting was very confident in their ability to successfully quit even though they see no importance in quitting. Or an individual who is very interested, but not that confident, still feels it is important to quit. Both these individuals were in the same age group (20-22).
Participants were actually smoking cigarettes while completing the survey. I had to emphasize that I was not attacking them while completing the survey. I did reassure them that preventive care and figuring out what that looks like is never a bad thing. We are all human and we all have our flaws, even if it is addiction. Tobacco usage as an addictive behavior is real and having a conversation about it is never a bad thing. Conversation, as a tool, can be used to discover solutions to the root of a problem. Even though all participated in the data collection, more were willing to converse with me, telling me their stories and struggles with tobacco usage and attempts for remission.
The 61 individuals were all engaging with me at times collectively, while smoking socially. Interesting enough, most social smokers consider themselves light smokers, casual smokers and occasional smokers. According to the Tobacco Industry Research, characteristics of social smoking include denial of personal nicotine addiction, self-categorization as a non-smoker and social smoking associated with “non-habit forming” cigarette users, which is displayed in my data. Of the 61 questionnaires, 54 percent were white, 13 percent black, 16 percent multi-racial, 9 percent Latina/Hispanic, 7 percent Asian and 1 percent Native American. Furthermore, 54 are interested in quitting, 35 are 50 percent confident in their success in quitting and 41 agree that it is important to quit. Hopefully, the promotion of social smoking can help improve cessation strategies to quit in addition to using dialogue and social support as a tool to quit.