firing back

Los Angeles County officials have bankrolled what is believed to be the first anti-smoking campaign aimed specifically at the gay community.

So far, 47 billboards have appeared through out the city with the sobering message: “40,000 gays & lesbians will die this year from smoking.” Plans call for additional print, radio and TV ads.

The campaign was created by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, which presented the work to the L.A. County Health Services Department. As part of the county’s 13-year-old Tobacco Control Program, the effort received $130,000 in funding and is slated to run at least until the end of the year.

“Big tobacco often sponsors gay-pride events and you see their ads in gay magazines all the time,” said Joshua Schare, ad manager for the center. “It’s clear they are marketing to gays and lesbians.”

Schare said the 40,000 figure was calculated using data that indicates there are about 400,000 smoking-related deaths each year and other statistics that indicate one in 10 people are gay.