May 3rd, 2016
The latest harbingers of the decidedly un-fabulous consequences of prolonged tobacco use are the fabulous drag queens of the “This Free Life” YouTube channel, which deals with issues relating to LGBT people.
“This Free Life” was set up with $35.7 million in funds from the Food and Drug Administration after a decision was made to address tobacco use specifically within the LGBT community, where government data suggests that tobacco use is particularly prominent. Among LGBT young adults, smoking rates are almost double those of the general population of that age group; of around 2 million LGBT young adults in the US, an estimated 40 percent smoke at least occasionally. Factors at play, according to the FDA, include anxiety around “coming out,” continuing social stigma, and gay celebrities who smoke.
“I’m known for a lot of things,” say the drag queens in the video, “but I will never be known for wrinkled skin, yellow nails, smelly hair or a busted smile, all caused by what?! Smoking! Yes, queen, every cigarette is causing you damage! Because I’m known for my flawless, I live free from tobacco.”
Anti-tobacco ads, and anti-drug ads in general, have been widely mocked in the past for being out of touch and ineffective—and harm reductionists often criticize scare-based campaigns as stigmatizing—but increasingly producers are trying to latch onto social media trends.
A widely circulated anti-smoking campaign from “Truth Orange” called #CATmageddon recently focused on the risk of smoking to pets and sought to piggyback on the virality cat videos. Yet research has increasingly suggested that young people are more influenced around drinking or smoking by media other than direct advertising.