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LA County urges gays to cut back smoking
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles County health officials are focusing a new anti-smoking program at gays and lesbians, who they say are nearly twice as likely to smoke as the general population.

The "Last Drag" campaign aims to reach gays and lesbians through print ads and efforts in bars and clubs - where health officials say many smokers picked up the habit to begin with.

"When a lot of gay men and women come out, they come out in the bar culture, and the bar and club culture has really established a culture where it's OK to smoke," said Jeff Bailey, director of education at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. "We need to change that."

Health officials have set up smoking cessation programs targeting gay men at three local area health organizations and plan to start programs early next year for lesbians. Similar classes have operated in San Francisco for several years.

Los Angeles' campaign is a response to a California Department of Health Services study last month that found 30.4 percent of the state's gay community smokes, compared to 15.4 percent of the general population.

"This is the first time that there is data on the gay population," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "It's of grave concern. We know one out of three smokers is going to die prematurely from a smoking related disease."

 

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Fielding said the campaign will get a $30,000 budget but it will be tied to other ongoing anti-smoking efforts.

By LAURA WIDES
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

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