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Data shows Wisconsin LGBTQ residents have higher tobacco use compared to other groups

Posted at 7:22 AM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 10:14:00-04

MILWAUKEE — Past studies show the LGBTQ population in Wisconsin, similar to other minority groups, has struggled with smoking.

Health advocates say, while it's gotten better with time, there's still work to do.

"It has to do with stress and it's an easy population to exploit. It can be challenging sometimes," said Charlie Leonard, Coalition Coordinator with City of Milwaukee Tobacco-Free Alliance.

"There may be fewer Wisconsinites smoking, but there's a whole new generation getting hooked on nicotine through vape products," they added.

A 2017 state youth risk survey shows lesbian, gay and bisexual youth reported they tried smoking before age 13 more than any of the other groups surveyed.

A 2019 state survey found 24% of Wisconsin's LGB+ communities currently use tobacco, compared to 15% of Wisconsin residents.

"I started smoking when I turned 18," said Dana Langill of Milwaukee.

Langill realized the success she had in giving up cigarettes could help others, so she did this outreach video with the Tobacco-Free Alliance.

"What worked for me personally was I needed to tell everybody in my life, especially those who smoked, do not give me a cigarette because I am going to have some weak moments, and I'm very persuasive and I will convince you to give me a cigarette - but don't do it!" Dana Langill said.

Leonard believes personal success stories like Langill's can inspire others to live healthier lives. But the program's promotional efforts are up against big tobacco and its extensive funding capabilities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in 2019 the biggest cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies forked over $8.2 billion on advertising in the United States.

"How do you compete with that?" Consumer Investigator Kristin Byrne asked Leonard.

"It's really challenging. We have a statewide tobacco prevention movement. So, we can coordinate at the statewide level, but we are funded at about ten percent of what the CDC recommends. So, we are fighting an uphill battle with that for sure," Leonard.

Still, the city's efforts are staying consistent, especially with e-cigarettes gaining in popularity.

"The fact that Milwaukee still has this alliance that is targeting the communities that need that extra support to quit and be healthier is really impressive, and I love it," Langill.

If you are trying to quit smoking or vaping, you can call 800-QUIT-NOW. For more information, check out this link.

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