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Benjamin Law to lead panel discussion on smoking, queer film, culture, health and human rights

Posted 12 Mar, 2019

LGBTIQ+ health, arts and human rights will be the focus of an engaging panel discussion hosted by Australian author, journalist and screenwriter Benjamin Law as part of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) this month. 

Presented by Quit Victoria in partnership with MQFF, the event on Wednesday 20 March will feature high-profile leaders in the areas of LGBTIQ+ arts, health and gender, including: 

• Ro Allen: Victorian Commissioner for Gender and Sexuality  

• Dr Julie Mooney-Somers: Senior Lecturer, School of Public Health, University of Sydney 

• Jordan Raskopoulos: Australian comedian and actor

• Cerise Howard: Co-founder of tilde - Trans & Gender Diverse Film Festival 

• Colin Batrouney; Director of Health Promotion, Policy and Communications at Thorne Harbour Health

• Todd Harper: Cancer Council Victoria CEO.

Law said the panel of six will explore the links between queer art, film, culture, health and human rights, and the glamorisation of smoking depicted in queer film. 

“Research has found that viewers of movies with LGBTIQ+ themes are exposed to one depiction of tobacco use every 15 minutes.  This is incredibly frequent, especially when you consider the huge role film plays in influencing cultural norms,” Law said. 

“I’m excited to bring these leading commentators and thinkers together to unpack the issues of LGBTIQ+ rights, health and culture.” 

Panellist and University of Sydney Senior Lecturer, Dr Julie Mooney-Somers, said smoking is a significant heath issue for LGBTIQ+ communities that isn’t often talked about. 

“We know that smoking rates are at least twice as high as the general population. We need to understand why, and think about the significance of cigarettes and smoking in LGBTIQ+ communities,” Dr Mooney-Somers said. 

“Australia has been a world leader in tobacco control, but it seems population-level efforts have not worked to reduce smoking among LGBTIQ+ people. We need to tailor our communication around smoking for LGBTIQ+ communities; it’s great that Quit Victoria has heard this message. Partnerships like Quit Victoria and MQFF are vital in raising visibility around smoking as an LGBTIQ+ health issue.” 

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said: “LGBTIQ+ community members are up to three times more likely to smoke than the general population. With smoking the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Australia, it’s essential that we call out the sneaky marketing tactics the tobacco industry is still getting away with internationally, such as the glamourisation of smoking in LGBTIQ+ film and TV, to work together to improve the health of the community. 

“With such high smoking rates in the LGBQIT+ community, it’s incredibly important that we engage high-profile people from the community such as those on the panel to help get the quit message across.

“In addition to working with MQFF, Thorne Harbour Health and Minus18, Quit and partners have trained our Quitline Specialists to deliver smoking cessation advice to the LGBTIQ+ community in a culturally appropriate and accessible way. This event will also help highlight that support to quit is available.”

The Smokescreen panellist discussion will be held at The Cube, ACMI on Wednesday 20 March 2019. The event is free but limited seats are available. To book a seat online visit

Quitline Specialists offer personalised support to help smokers kick the habit for good. Call the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit for information and tools to help plan a quit attempt. 

About the partnership

Smokescreen is a Melbourne Queer Film Festival Event in partnership with Quit Victoria, Thorne Harbour Health and Minus18. 

Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, the State Government of Victoria and Cancer Council Victoria. For more information, visit: 

Melbourne Queer Film Festival is Australia’s oldest and largest LGBTIQ film festival and celebration of the moving image. For more information, visit:

Minus18 is Australia's largest LGBTIQ youth network. The charity creates social change, mobilises community support and smashes queerphobia through their youth-led events, workshops and campaigns and by delivering education resources nationwide. We aim for an Australia where all LGBTIQ young people feel safe, included and belong. For more information, visit: 

Thorne Harbour Health is a community controlled organisation, governed by our members, and working for our sex, sexuality and gender diverse communities. For more information, visit:

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