Lesbian Health Group Embarks on Anti-Smoking Campaign

Friday, July 23 2010
December 10, 2004 (Washington Blade by Johanna Lunglhofer) ­ The Mautner Project, an organization that delivers health-related information and support for lesbian and bisexual women, their families and caregivers, is promoting intimacy over smoking with a new “Delicious Lesbian Kiss” campaign. “The whole spin of this campaign is a sexy image, a positive replacement, for [smoking],” says Kelley Duppes, the Mautner Project’s volunteer and outreach coordinator.


But an emphasis on sexy images was not part of the Mautner Project’s original plan. “We kind of went in thinking that we would show pictures of lesbians with their puppies and lesbians walking on the beach, but [the women in the focus groups] were real clear, so that’s what we went with,” explains Cheryl Fields, the Mautner Project’s deputy director.


Funded by a $499,148 grant from the American Legacy Foundation’s Priority Populations initiative, the Mautner Project is implementing the campaign with the goal of providing smoking prevention and cessation information to lesbians 40 and older, who might otherwise not be encouraged to quit. The American Legacy Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C.., that works with community-based organizations and other groups nationwide to reduce tobacco use. It was established several years ago as a result of a legal settlement between 46 attorneys general nationwide and in five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry.


“We’re proud of [the Mautner Project],” says Amber Hardy Thornton, executive vice president of program development at the American Legacy Foundation. “They’re really out there in the forefront, developing new strategies.” Thornton said American Legacy has awarded more than 80 grants to fund information and smoking-cessation programs aimed at gay smokers.


Mautner’s grant proposal outlined plans to address three of the American Legacy’s highest priorities: reducing exposure to second-hand smoke, increasing successful quit rates, and reducing disparities in access to prevention and cessation services.


Kathleen DeBold, the Mautner Project’s executive director, said the campaign includes plans to distribute postcards and put up posters in group medical practices, at women’s health clinics like Planned Parenthood locations in metropolitan Washington, and at the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Clinic. Informational materials will also be made available at local lesbian bars like Phase 1, and at lesbian events such as Soft ’N Wet afternoons, and Women Steppin’ Out. The Mautner Project also plans to distribute Delicious Kiss materials at other area clubs such as Chaos, the Hippo, in Baltimore, Apex, all of which offer lesbian-specific party nights, and at local businesses frequented by lesbians such as Lambda Rising and the Human Rights Campaign Corner Store, both in Dupont Circle.


Duppes said the bar managers were more than willing to participate, noting that patrons have said they are willing to pay even more of a cover charge to go to smoke-free nights. One such event sponsored by Mautner at Phase 1 last June was a great success, an organizer said. She also said information tables set up in front of Lambda Rising at the Great American Smoke Out, a day in November on which people are encouraged not to smoke, were also well received. Beyond smoke-free nights, the campaign also includes more creative outreach materials, such as magnets, boxes of candy and mints, and T-shirts, Duppes said. One of the posters featured in the campaign asks readers, “How about a delicious lesbian kiss? Want to kiss me all night? All over? Put that cigarette away, let’s put your lips to better use.”


Beyond these measures the campaign has an advertising component, including a public service announcement to be aired on cable television, screened at LGBT film festivals, and made available to outreach groups across the country. The campaign will also include a “Quit Kit” for lesbians over 40.


Mautner officials said in their grant proposal that the campaign would be designed to target groups disadvantaged by the limited availability of prevention and cessation services. Specifically, they identified “butch/femme lesbians, non-urban lesbians, working-class lesbians, and lesbians of color.”  It also targets lesbians over 40, because of the increased health risks posed to older women who smoke. “Older women who quit [smoking] reduce their risk of many disabling conditions, including stroke, heart attack, chest problems, and fractures,” DeBold said.


If all goes as planned, the Delicious Lesbian Kiss campaign will extend nationally in 2005 as a result of cooperative efforts between the Mautner Project and lesbian health organizations and community centers in four more cities: Philadelphia; Madison, Wis.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Rehoboth, Del. “January seems to be a really great time [to expand the campaign],” Duppes said, hopeful that New Year’s resolutions to quit smoking will help make their message more widely heard.


In addition to the Priory Populations grant it awarded the Mautner Project, the American Legacy Foundation also contributed funds to several other gay anti-smoking programs across the country. In Chicago, a grant from American Legacy helped to develop the Queers Tobacco Elimination and Control Collaborative (QTECC) to establish tobacco cessation groups and a media campaign aimed at popular gay venues and publications in that city. In Boston, the Fenway Institute which focuses on gay health matters, sponsored cessation group recruitment efforts and research projects. In New York, an American Legacy grant provides funding for “Queer and Healthy in the Bronx,” a program that provides smoking cessation and reduction services aimed at racial minorities and gay people with low incomes.

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