Find your “why” and Quit With Pride

While smoking affects the health of everyone, the rate of smoking is higher among LGBTIQ+ communities. Smoking and vaping have numerous negative health impacts but there have never been more tools available to help our diverse communities quit. To learn more about this, we spoke with Sabine from Quit and Matilda Mercury from the recently launched Quit with Pride campaign.

How does smoking and vaping affect LGBTIQ+ communities more than the general population?

Sabine: Smoking currently kills 50 Australians a day. It remains the leading preventable cause of death, and it disproportionately impacts the LGBTIQ+ community. We know that vaping and smoking rates in the community are about double the rate in the heterosexual community.

Why are LGBTIQ+ communities smoking and vaping at higher rates?

Sabine: I think it’s due to that unique set of challenges that the community faces. It’s about having to deal with discrimination and social exclusion, and that really contributes to higher prevalence of stress and mental health issues within the community. Maybe these types of factors are really driving people to turn to smoking and vaping as a coping mechanism.

Are there certain cohorts within our LGBTIQ+ communities affected at higher rates by smoking and vaping?

Sabine: There is some data within the 2023 Victorian Smoking and Health Survey which demonstrated that daily smoking rates are higher among bisexual people. So that was really the only one group that sort of stood out from the rest of the rainbow community. As to why that is – I don’t know. [It’s] certainly an interesting data point, and it’s something that we probably will do some further research into.

What are the core messages of the Quit With Pride campaign and where might people see it?

Sabine: I think what it’s really focusing on is providing inclusive and culturally safe support for members of the community in their quitting journey. It’s really focusing on the fact that [you should] find your “why”: why you want to quit. It’s really about people understanding that your quitting journey will be different to your friend or other people in your friendship group.

Matilda, tell us about your relationship with smoking.

Matilda: I started smoking when I was 16 years old. I quit when I was 27. I smoked for 11 years, and I smoked during the real, like, formative years of my life. Those parts of your life where, socialisation takes a hold. I was such an anxious person in multiple different settings, whether it was social settings or university. My dependency on smoking was quite literally birthed because I couldn’t deal with my anxiety.

And [when] smoking… every time I inhaled, I also inhaled oxygen. I thought that the cigarettes were making me less anxious. Totally wrong. There is so much research to show that now, and I’m very well aware of it. But when you’re 16, you don’t think like that. My dependency on cigarettes, on tobacco, really started from wanting to feel better, feel less anxious, and to join in on social gatherings.

How has your experience with anxiety changed since quitting?

Matilda: On a scale of zero: no anxiety, to ten: full blown panic attack anxiety? When I first started smoking it was probably like an eight, nine, ten out of ten. As somebody who has been smoke free for five years, [now it’s] probably at like a one or two out of ten.

What was your quitting journey like?

Matilda: I was determined to not let smoking be my coping mechanism. It was integral for my survival to reach out to Quit, to call them, to use the resources on their website. There’s one factsheet all about health – that was a saviour to me. The app, MyQuitBuddy, saviour. Just seeing how many dollars I was saving each day.

I was a daily smoker, so seeing how many dollars I’d save each day – that kept me going as well. [I also took] the advice I learned from Quit, which was to form a support team.

The combination of the website and app and then the advice I’d learned from Quit around support systems got me through.

Find resources and support to help you quit by calling the Quitline on 13 78 48, download the MyQuitBuddy App, or visit Quit.org.au.

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