Taking Control

Queen Shannon on peer pressure, wanting to be the “cool kid” and how she eventually overcame tobacco use


My name is Queen Shannon Gipson, I’m a black trans women and representative from the Unique Woman’s Coalition, a black trans led organization here in Los Angeles. 

I want to share my own experience of how I overcame smoking cigarettes. It has been a long road of smoking since I was 17 years old and now, I am 40!

I indulged in my first cigarette from peer pressure. All my friends smoked because you were considered the “cool kid” for doing so, and I wanted in on being part of the IT crowd, so I begin smoking Bidis. A Bidi is a Jamaican tobacco leaf like a cigarette. After smoking a year, I was introduced to Black and Mild cigars. I later learned that a cigar equals 20 cigarettes, so I quit those and began smoking Newport cigarettes. 

Smoking was so present in my household, everyone around me smoked cigarettes. After 15 years of smoking, I noticed how it started affecting my health. I had a host of bad side effects including my skin getting spotty, bad breath, unpleasant smell on my clothes, stained teeth, it affected my breathing, and weight loss. I told myself, this bad habit isn’t worth all these complications and I begin to look for ways to quit smoking. I first tried quitting cold turkey which was impossible, and then I purchased pills, patches, and gum. I failed them all. Quitting felt impossible. 

It is so important to take control of the wellness of your body. Smoking is a mind addiction and once you gain control you can overcome any addiction. 

My mother paid for acupuncture which was supposed to decrease my smoking desire. Stressful experiences would increase my smoking. I went from smoking 1 pack a day, to 2 packs per day. That was alarming to myself so after abusing the habit, my health started to decline. I was later diagnosed with a micro Butin respiratory infection from excessive smoking. Anyone would have thought that experience would led me to quit! For about two weeks I was in the hospital on a breathing machine. That was a clear wakeup call, however, I unfortunately didn’t quit.

After my hospital stay, I had a plan to put into action and that was to quit smoking. I stopped buying packs of cigarettes and instead I would buy five cigarettes for the day. I begin to train myself to smoke less, and it was working. I started incorporating habits like exercising to increase my breathing, my eating habits increased, and I began to feel so much better. The less I smoked, the more amazing I began to feel inside and out! In addition to feeling physically and emotionally healthier, I was saving thousands of dollars by not spending money on tobacco products.

After 15 years of prayers and family support I took the steps to quit smoking. It felt like the greatest achievement. It is so important to take control of the wellness of your body. Smoking is a mind addiction and once you gain control you can overcome any addiction. Smoking affects you and everyone around you. Today I am seven years tobacco free and I encourage anyone who has the desire to quit to do so. Your life will only change for the better, trust me, I know mine did. 

You can start by taking a small step and take the We Breathe Public Intercept Survey at bit.ly/WeBreathe21 and share about your experience with tobacco use. Eligible LGBTQ+ participants who complete the survey will receive a $15 gift card. Depending on the number of responses, it may take a few weeks to distribute the incentive. Thank you in advance for your involvement and patience while we review survey responses.