The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community continues to be disproportionately impacted by smoking. The LGBT community is among the populations most severely impacted by tobacco use. The most recent study suggests the LGBT community smokes at a rate almost 50% to 200% higher than the general population. This is in part due to Tobacco Companies that aggressively advertise to the LGBT Community. The social stress of living in a society that can be hostile to LGBT people, also plays a factor in higher smoking rates, particularly among LGBT youth.
Despite widespread evidence of smoking’s harms to health, rising costs of tobacco products, and the visibility of public health interventions aimed at tobacco users, tobacco use remains high among lesbian women, gay men, bisexual people and transgender people (LGBT ) internationally, with US data showing at least double the smoking rates of the general population. [1-5] Although anecdotal evidence suggests similar rates internationally, no formal smoking data exist for intersex people, representing an important area for research. There are many reasons why LGBT people may begin or continue smoking. Commonly cited reasons include minority stress due to the effects of discrimination, harassment, and violence; lack of social support; and fear of weight gain.
The LGBT Community is Disproportionately Impacted by Tobacco
Members of the LGBT community smoke at a far greater rate than that of the general population, although estimates vary widely. In one study, lesbian women were 70% more likely to smoke than other women, and gay men were more than 50% more likely to smoke than other men. More recent research suggests this number may be even higher. The LGBT National Tobacco Control Network estimates that the LGBT community is 50% to 200% more likely than others to be addicted to tobacco.
LGBT adolescents also smoke at an alarming rate, in one national study 47 of females and 36.7 of males reporting same-sex attraction or behavior smoked. In comparison, only 29% of the rest of young people in the study smoked.
Smoking and HIV/AIDS
Smoking weakens the immune system, and makes it even harder to fight off opportunistic infections associated with HIV. Smoking also increases the risk of HIV-associated malignancies and other cancers found among people living with HIV/AIDS. Further, HIV positive individuals who are at greater risk for heart disease because of lypodystrophy, significantly compound that risk by smoking.
LGBT People and Smoking Cessation
Although more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender smokers believe smoking increases their risk of diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease, fewer have made quit attempts (75% compared with 80% of all adults).
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit offers smoking cessation support for all LGBT people and allies which comes with nicotine replacement therapy. Combining nicotine replacement therapy with such a program will double your chances of quitting successfully.