On June 9th, as members of Neu Life Community Development FACT, we spread the truth about Big Tobacco to community members at Milwaukee PrideFest. We were at a booth airing out Big Tobacco’s “Dirty Laundry,” letting others know what tobacco industry executives say about their customers. One quote from our “Dirty Laundry” display states, “The base of our business is the high school student.” FACT member Erik sees this is true with his peers. “If they see other people do it they would do it too,” he says. FACT member Mikayla also agrees high school students make easy customers because they often have stress and use tobacco products to avoid stress in their life or school. FACT member Tamesha notes, “I find it disturbing but accurate because a lot of high school teens face many obstacles in life, and some turn to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products like cigarettes, Black and Milds, or e-cigarettes. To have the opportunity to get out there and spread the word and make an impact on those who do smoke was a great experience. We gave advice to some smokers who stopped at our booth and helped encourage them to stop smoking.”
Last year, Milwaukee PrideFest took a stand against Big Tobacco by no longer accepting tobacco industry sponsorship money. In the past, they had allowed the promotion of cheap menthol cigarettes on festival grounds, but luckily they no longer allow it. The tobacco industry first started targeting the LGBTQ community in the 1990s through what they called “Project SCUM” which stood for Sub-Culture Urban Marketing.
We think it’s important to raise awareness about tobacco industry tactics to gain new customers. Every year, 2,600 Wisconsin teens become new daily smokers, and most teens say they wouldn’t try smoking or vaping if the products weren’t flavored like mint, candy, or fruit.
FACT is Wisconsin’s youth tobacco prevention movement. For more information, visit www.factmovement.com. To watch video stories about how tobacco addiction impacts the Milwaukee LGBTQ community, visit http://bit.ly/tobaccofreepride.