Tobacco use in the United States has declined in recent years, according to the CDC, in both adults and high school-age adolescents. Within the spectrum of the LGBTQ community, however, the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products remains prevalent, and incredibly damaging.
The statistics are jarring. According to The Gay Smoke Out, A 1999 house-hold based survey found that 48.5% of gay and bisexual men reported smoking. The national average for straight men is 28.6%. While that survey was taken 15 years ago, the numbers today reflect immensely disproportionate use of tobacco in the LGBTQ community.
The DC Center reports:
- Members of the LGBT community smoke at a far greater rate than that of the general population, although estimates vary widely. In one 2004 California 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.
These statistics and numbers are as alarming as they are curious. They beg the question: why, in a community where health is valued so highly, does the number one avoidable cause of heart disease and a plethora of cancers run rampant?
The answer is open to conjecture, but a solid sociological theory reads as such:
Smoking usually begins in the adolescent years, around the time when teens become sexually aware. The act of smoking can be used as a crutch to ease anxiety regarding the various stresses associated with hiding their sexuality.
Because most major tobacco companies add various agents to their product to make it even more addictive, the habits from youth carry over into adulthood.
Members of the LGBTQ community have resources available to them, just like members of the heterosexual community at large. If you are trying to quit smoking, please visit www.smokefree.gov, www.gaysmokeout.net, www.lung.org, or simply google all of the tips, tricks, and free quit lines available in your area.