Angie, age 62, lives in Ohio and began smoking menthol cigarettes at age 15. She smoked because she thought it would help her to cope with the fear that people around her would not accept that she is gay.


Angie, age 62, grew up in the Cincinnati area as the middle daughter of two preachers. She started smoking menthol cigarettes at age 15 because she watched her mother smoke. She wanted to mimic what she thought was adult behavior. This began a struggle with nicotine addiction that would last 26 years.

Growing up, Angie never felt like she belonged in her family or her community. She realized from a young age that she liked girls, and she thought being gay would be difficult for her family to accept. When she felt angry or hurt, she would smoke menthol cigarettes to try to feel better.

After high school, Angie moved to Las Vegas to pursue a career as a professional singer. Smoking was common in the nightclubs and casinos where she performed, as were alcohol and other drugs. Angie started drinking heavily and using drugs. Angie’s life spiraled out of control, and for two years, she lived on the street. At the age of 32, she was able to get professional help to end her alcohol and substance use. But the one addiction she continued to struggle with was smoking. It would be another nine years before Angie quit smoking for good.

Today, Angie shares her recovery story to help others fight their own substance use. “My hope is to help other people, especially LGBTQ+ people, understand what the tobacco companies are trying to do with their advertising, and tell them it’s not worth it to smoke,” Angie said. “Their lives and their health are worth more.”


See more stories from Tips from Former Smokers.

Angie P.: Smoking and Identity