HRC Youth Ambassador Jazz Jennings Explains How the Tobacco Industry Targets 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.

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Safe is Not Enough: A Resource for Educators

Post submitted by Kimmie Fink, Welcoming Schools Consultant

For caring teachers who want to support their LGBTQ students and families, there are many resources at their disposal. One book to add to your professional development reading list is Safe is Not Enough: Better Schools for LGBTQ Students, by Michael Sadowski. HRC is honored to have its Welcoming Schools program highlighted in Sadowski’s book.

Welcoming Schools comes into the picture in his chapter “Making It Elementary.” The Welcoming Schools approach is unique in its focus on elementary schools, which have historically been underserved when it comes to LGBTQ and gender topics. The chapter references Welcoming Schools lessons, art projects, glossaries, book lists, and other resources.

The importance of safe and inclusive schools cannot be underestimated. Even before the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw the protective guidance for transgender students, LGBTQ youth have struggled due to the 2016 election.

HRC Foundation recently released the results of a groundbreaking post-election survey of more than 50,000 young people ages 13-18 revealing the deeply damaging fallout the November election has had on youth across the United States. Findings include:

  • Among young people who reported seeing bullying and harassment, 70 percent had witnessed incidents motivated by race or ethnicity, 63 percent had seen incidents motivated by sexual orientation, 59 percent had seen incidents motivated by immigration status, and 55 percent had witnessed incidents motivated by gender.
  • Over the past 30 days, about half of transgender youth reported feeling hopeless and worthless most or all of the time, and 70 percent said that these and similar feelings have increased in the past 30 days.

Schools should absolutely start with safety, but they can’t stop there. According to Sadowski, they must “move beyond the notion of ‘better’ schools for LGBTQ youth toward an ideal educational experience for these students.”

Now more than ever, LGBTQ youth need to know they have support.  You can become a better advocate by attending HRC’s Time to THRIVE conference, the nation’s premier convening for K-12 educators, professional counselors and other youth-serving professionals on LGBTQ youth safety, inclusion and well-being. The 2017 conference will be held April 28-30 in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the National Education Association and the American Counseling Association.  

HRC’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier program dedicated to creating respectful and supportive elementary schools in embracing family diversity, creating LGBTQ-inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying, creating gender-expansive schools, and supporting transgender and non-binary students.

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