Tobacco use is a leading cause of preventable deaths worldwide, and the impact of tobacco on the health of trans people is particularly concerning. Trans individuals face unique challenges when it comes to tobacco use, as they often experience high levels of stress, discrimination, and social isolation, all of which can increase their risk of tobacco use.
Like many teenagers, at 15 I was uncertain, self-conscious, and trying to fit in. But as a Black LGBTQ+ youth navigating my gender expression and eager to make friends, I was willing to do nearly anything to feel a part of this community and culture that welcomed all of who I am.
I was vulnerable, and there were people who knew this, and exploited it.
That exploitation took place in what I believed to be a safe space by an uncaring and unethical industry, Big Tobacco. It was at a Las Vegas Pride Festival that I had my first experience with tobacco. I was given a Newport cigarette because “that’s what Black people smoked,” I was told. And as someone at that time who was desperate for acceptance, I took that cigarette. It began a decades-long addiction to nicotine.
One of the most significant impacts of tobacco on trans people is an increased risk of cancer. Trans people who use tobacco are more likely to develop lung, throat, and mouth cancer, among other forms of cancer. This is because tobacco smoke contains a range of harmful chemicals that can damage cells in the body, leading to cancerous growths.
In addition to cancer, tobacco use can also lead to a range of other health problems in trans people. For example, smoking can exacerbate mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, which are already prevalent in the trans community due to discrimination and stigma. Smoking can also lead to respiratory problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, which can be especially dangerous for trans people who may already have compromised lung function due to hormone therapy.
Another significant impact of tobacco on trans people is financial. Trans individuals face high levels of economic insecurity due to discrimination in the workplace, and tobacco use can further exacerbate these financial struggles. Tobacco companies don’t care about our access to ecomic stability. Thier advertising capitalizes on the fact that trans people see ourselves in the media so infrequently; they knew that seeing ourselves in their advertising would lead to their products becoming a part of our culture. They create slick ads with people who look like us living out and proud, smiling, and happy. They sponsored our events like Prides and parades.Smoking is an expensive habit, and the cost of cigarettes can quickly add up, leaving trans individuals with less money to cover other essential expenses such as healthcare and housing.
Finally, tobacco use can have social impacts on trans individuals. Smoking is often a social activity, and many trans individuals may feel pressure to smoke in order to fit in with their peers. This can lead to feelings of social isolation for those who choose not to smoke, as well as increased exposure to secondhand smoke for those who do.
In conclusion, the impacts of tobacco on trans people are significant and wide-ranging. From increased cancer risk to financial struggles and social isolation, smoking can have serious consequences for the health and well-being of trans individuals. It is crucial that trans individuals are provided with resources and support to quit smoking and improve their overall health and quality of life.
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