For years, data has shown that LGBTQ+ youth and adults use tobacco at higher rates than their peers. The MIYHS Fact Sheet, LGBT Student Health, shows that 13.6% of Maine high school students identify as LGBT (about 7,500) and smoke at about twice the rate of non-LGBT students (13% vs 6%). 2019 MIYHS vaping data showed similar use rates, with non-LGBT at 29%, Gay/Lesbian at 25%, Bisexuals at 32% statewide.
This is a social justice issue, and we have the opportunity to equip a new queer generation with better tobacco education, support, and coping strategies statewide.
The LGBTQ+ Youth Tobacco Prevention Project empowers LGBTQ+ youth to become change-makers to reduce the use of tobacco and vaping products among queer youth and to engage community systems’ support of their efforts.
LGBTQ+ youth are resilient, savvy leaders who prioritize their health and well-being and actively resist efforts to abuse them.
Success Stories Highlights
The Problem: Tobacco Companies have financially supported PRIDE events across the country since the early days of LGBTQ+ organizations and celebrations. One of the marketing strategies of big tobacco to hook LGBTQ+ people was to offer small amounts of money to support LGBTQ+ organizations. There were few ways to fund LGBTQ+ activities at the time. Tobacco sponsorship helped to build cigarette and vaping brand loyalty and certainly contributed to the higher rates of tobacco use in the LGBTQ+ communities.
What We Are Doing About It: LGBTQ+ Youth Tobacco Prevention Project partners promote tobacco-free youth and family engagement in Pride! Both OUT Maine and HCCA presented on LGBTQ+ Youth engagement and demonstrations of Pride in our communities. In 2021 and 2022 LGBTQ+ youth art was displayed in both Rockland and Gardiner on their Main Streets. 2022 saw an increase in family-friendly Pride events in Maine including a Pride Weekend at the Trolly Museum and Pride Hikes which OUT Maine participated in. In prior years we also gathered surveys at Pride and generally celebrated our youth!