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The Center, the area’s LGBT community center, hired its second full-time staffer this week. Justin Johns, 28, has been brought onboard as The Center’s Tobacco Program associate.
David Mariner, The Center’s executive director, said he’s pleased to be working with Johns.
”Justin stood out from the other candidates because he had experience working on tobacco issues and experience working with the LGBT community. Plus, Justin has been a volunteer with the D.C. Center in the past and is very familiar with who we are as an organization and our vision for the future.”
Johns grew up as an ”Army brat” around the country before his family settled in Alexandria in 1998. He now lives in D.C. Johns has worked on other smoking-cessation efforts such as the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.
He says his initial work at The Center will be to lead smoking-cessation classes launching in the summer as well as spreading information about tobacco company marketing.
”They tend advertise to LGBT magazines to sort of portray themselves as being in our corner,” says Johns.
”Unfortunately, when people see that they feel good about using that product. But in the end all they get is health problems. They’re not really supporting our community, because all they’re doing is making us sick.”
Johns himself quit smoking when he was 26.
”I smoked briefly but ended up quitting just because I always felt sick and I didn’t like the way my clothes smelled.”
Working at The Center, Johns wants to also focus on the impact of smoking on the HIV/AIDS community.
”The LGBT community smokes at higher rates than the general population, and HIV-positive people smoke even beyond that at greater rates,” he says.
”What people don’t realize is it interferes with people’s medications, and people who are HIV positive end up with higher rates of cancer and it’s a whole new set of problems. There’s a lot of resources in D.C. to help people quit, so I want to spread news about that.”
For more information about The Center, call 202-682-2245 or visit thedccenter.org.