After a health-disparity survey revealed LGBT people smoke at significantly higher rates than non-LGBT people, seven of Pennsylvania’s 75 Pride festivals in June decided to prohibit smoking.
The festivals that are partially or completely smoke-free include Chester County, Allentown, Wilkes-Barre, Reading, Lancaster, York and Harrisburg. Last year, three festivals — Reading, Allentown and Lancaster — were smoke-free.
“It’s not about shaming smokers,” said Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown. “It’s about creating a space that’s healthy for everyone.”
“People can bring their families to Pride and nonsmokers won’t have to worry about second-hand smoke,” he added.
The Bradbury-Sullivan Center is overseeing the data collection for the LGBT community-health survey, which started last year in Central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley. More than 600 people responded.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health partnered on the project, investing $50,000 in data collection last year and another $60,000 this year for surveys in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Erie.
William Way LGBT Community Center is now collecting data for the Philadelphia area. The health survey is available here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/Philadelphia_Area.
“Many members of our community … have experienced negative or traumatizing experiences with health professionals or have been undereducated about healthy eating and living practices,” R. Eric Thomas, program director at William Way, wrote in an email to PGN. “This study aims to connect those dots so that our legislators and community leaders are better equipped to advocate and educate on our behalves.
“This survey takes 10 minutes, tops, but in a real and dramatic way it can change our lives forever.”
In the Lehigh Valley, Shanker said 37 percent of LGBT people smoke, compared to 20 percent of non-LGBT people.
In Central Pennsylvania, Dr. Rachel Levine, the state’s physician general and a transgender woman, said 34 percent of LGBT people smoke, compared to 21 percent of non-LGBT people.
“Whatever statistics you look at, we have more people in our community smoking cigarettes and using tobacco products,” Levine said. “It’s not widely known, but it’s interesting, that LGBT people have higher tobacco rates than the general population.”
She added about 30,000 Pennsylvanians die each year from tobacco-related health problems. The state Department of Health will be providing resources for LGBT people who would like to quit tobacco at the smoke-free Prides. Levine highlighted the Pennsylvania free quit line at 1-800-Quit-Now (784-8669) and “This Free Life,” a tobacco-cessation campaign from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Shanker said Tobacco Free Northeast PA is also helping with the LGBT outreach.
Levine noted it would be ideal for all Prides in Pennsylvania to become partially or completely smoke-free.
“Our goal is to keep that increasing as much as we can,” she said.