How Tobacco Impacts the LGBTQ+ Community

For years, the LGBTQ+ community have struggled with public acceptance and social stigma.  Conditions are slowly improving in our society, but unfortunately LGBTQ+ people still struggle with discrimination today. This added stress often leads people to pick up cigarette smoking as a method to cope.[1]

Stress from social stigma is just one of the reasons why the LGBTQ+ community is disproportionately impacted by cigarette smoking. Several factors contribute to the high rates of cigarette smoking among LGBTQ+ individuals including aggressive marketing from the tobacco industry and limited access to health care.[2][3]

 

Disproportionate Smoking Rates

  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults smoke at rates up to 2.5 times higher than straight adults.[4]

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults- United States, 2005-2015. Morbidity and Mortalilty Weekly Report. 2016;65(44):1205-1211.
Buchting FO, Emory KT, Scout, et al. Transgender Use of Cigarettes, Cigars, and E-Cigarettes in a National Study. Am J Prev Med. 2017;53(1):e1-e7.

 

  • 36% of LGBT smokers report they usually smoke menthol cigarettes, compared to 29% of heterosexual smokers.[5]  Research shows that menthol cigarettes may be more addictive and deadlier than non-menthol cigarettes.[6]

 

Higher Smoking Rates Among LGBTQ+ Youth

  • More than twice as many lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students reported current cigarette use, compared to their heterosexual peers.[7]

 
Source: Source: Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12

 

  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are twice as likely to have smoked a whole cigarette before they turned 13. [8]

 

Why Are Smoking Rates Higher Among LGBTQ+ People?

Aggressive marketing from the tobacco industry

Tobacco industry documents prove that tobacco companies were aware of the high smoking rates among the LGBTQ+ community.[9]  They used this to their advantage and began targeting LGBTQ+ people with advertisements in gay publications. The tobacco industry was one of the first to develop marketing materials targeted towards the LGBTQ+ community, a group that has historically been ignored by mainstream advertisers.[10]

Major tobacco companies took advantage of this emerging LGBTQ+ market by positioning themselves as allies to the LGBTQ+ rights movement. They sponsored pride events and distributed free cigarettes, donated money to LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS organizations, and paid for smoking lounges at GLAAD (formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) events.[11][12]

Tobacco companies marketing to LGBTQ+ people and industry funding may have contributed to a lack of awareness among the LGBTQ+ community about the dangers of tobacco.[13]

 

Stress from social stigma among LGBTQ+ people

Stress from discrimination and social stigma is another factor that contributes to high smoking rates among LGBTQ+ persons.

Although social acceptance has improved, there is still stigma associated with being a sexual minority. Actual or perceived stigma causes stress, and research shows that smoking rates are higher in groups that experience high levels of stress.[14] The environment in which LGBTQ+ individuals come out — to themselves and their community — can also have a serious impact on their health and well-being.[15]

 

Limited access to health care

LGBTQ+ individuals have more difficulty getting access to health care than the general population due to lack of health insurance, discriminatory healthcare practices and avoidance in seeking treatment.[16] This can negatively affect health as well as access to tobacco cessation treatments, including counseling and medication.[17]

Fortunately, Tobacco Free Florida has FREE tools and services to help ALL tobacco users quit. If you or someone you know wants to quit, go to tobaccofreeflorida.com/quityourway or call 1-877-U-CAN-NOW (822-6669.)

If you’re interested in combating tobacco use in your community, visit tobaccofreeflorida.com/get-involved.

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

[1] Health Care Needs of Gay Men and Lesbians in the United States. Council Report. 1996, Journal of the

American Medical Association, Vol. 275(17), pp.1254-1359.

[2] American Lung Association (2010) Smoking out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community. American Lung Association, Washington DC. http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/research/lgbt-report.pdf

[3] Kates J, Ranji U, Beamesderfer A, Salganicoff A, Dawson L. Health and Access to Care and Coverage for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals in the U.S. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation 2015; Issue Brief [accessed 2016 Mar 17].

[4] Lee JGL, Griffin GK, Melvin CL Tobacco use among sexual minorities in the USA, 1987 to May 2007: a systematic review Tobacco Control 2009;18:275-282

[5] Fallin A, Goodin AJ, King BA. Menthol Cigarette Smoking among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adults. American journal of preventive medicine. 2015;48(1):93-97.

[6] Smokefree.gov. Menthol Cigarettes. Bethesda (MD): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, 2015 [accessed 2017 Oct 27].

[7] Kann L, Olsen EO, McManus T, Harris WA, Shanklin SL, Flint KH, Queen B, Lowry R, Chyen D, Whittle L, Thornton J, Lim C, Yamakawa Y, Brener N, Zaza S. Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12 – United States and Selected Sites, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2016;65(9):1-202. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.ss6509a1. PubMed PMID: 27513843.

[8] Kann L, Olsen EO, McManus T, Harris WA, Shanklin SL, Flint KH, Queen B, Lowry R, Chyen D, Whittle L, Thornton J, Lim C, Yamakawa Y, Brener N, Zaza S. Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12 – United States and Selected Sites, 2015. MMWR Surveill Summ. 2016;65(9):1-202. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.ss6509a1. PubMed PMID: 27513843.

[9] PHILIP MORRIS USA; ROBINSON Y. CEM’S GAY AND LESBIAN MARKETING EFFORTS. 1997

[10] An Analysis of Tobacco Industry Marketing to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Populations: Strategies for Mainstream Tobacco Control and Prevention. Stevens P, et al. 2004, Health Promotion Practice, Supplement to Vol. 5 (3).

[11] Offen N, Smith EA, Malone RE. Tobacco Industry Targeting of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community: A White Paper. San Francisco, CA: University of California, San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education; 2008.

[12] The DC Center for the LGBT Community. Smoking and the LGBT Community. Washington DC, 2015 [accessed 2016 Mar 17].

[13] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Best Practices User Guide: Health Equity in Tobacco Prevention and Control. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2015.

[14] Health Care Needs of Gay Men and Lesbians in the United States. Council Report. 1996, Journal of the

American Medical Association, Vol. 275(17), pp.1254-1359.

[15] American Lung Association (2010) Smoking out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community. American Lung Association, Washington DC.

[16] Kates J, Ranji U, Beamesderfer A, Salganicoff A, Dawson L. Health and Access to Care and Coverage for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals in the U.S. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation 2015; Issue Brief [accessed 2016 Mar 17].

[17] “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons and Tobacco Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 Feb. 2017, www.cdc.gov/tobacco/disparities/lgbt/index.htm.

[18] The DC Center for the LGBT Community. Smoking and the LGBT Community. Washington DC, 2015 [accessed 2016 Mar 17].