Jun. 3 2004
Washington, DC — In the spirit of our shared mission to protect all children from tobacco addiction, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids strongly urges the Utah Department of Health to renew a tobacco prevention grant to the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Utah.
We are deeply troubled by reports that the Utah Department of Health has decided not to renew funding to the GLBT Community Center based solely on an incident involving the wording of a tee shirt at one Salt Lake City high school. It is shameful that this incident is being used as a pretext to eliminate a tobacco prevention grant affecting all gay and lesbian high school students served by the GLBT Community Center. We urge state health officials to quickly reverse this decision. What lessons will these adults have taught Utah’s students about diversity, about respect for differing opinions and about conflict resolution? The failure to renew this grant sends a terrible message to gays and lesbians in Utah, and to gay and lesbian youth in particular, that while the tobacco companies value their business, state leaders do not value their health. Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in our country, and we should be working to protect every child in America from its devastating consequences.
Some 4,400 kids in Utah will become new daily smokers this year, and ultimately one in three of them will die prematurely from tobacco use. Gay and lesbian youth have been particularly targeted by the tobacco industry and are at greater risk for tobacco use than other kids. Studies have found that smoking rates in the gay and lesbian population, both youth and adults, are significantly higher than in the general population. It is critical that Utah and every state fund efforts to reach the gay and lesbian population through messengers and messages effective at discouraging tobacco use. Tobacco prevention efforts cannot succeed without aggressive, creative and effective outreach to those most at risk.