The tobacco use rate among lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals is striking – it is estimated to be twice that of the heterosexual population. Women in the LGBT community smoke at three times the rate of the general community. Get more facts about tobacco use and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population by reading the LGBT Fact Sheet.
Stress, patronage of bars and clubs, and higher instances of alcohol use among the LGBT community contribute to higher smoking rates. In addition to these factors, direct marketing by the tobacco industry fortifies these high rates, trapping thousands of LGBTs in its deadly eight-billion dollar advertising campaign. In fact, segments of the LGBT community have been characterized as an “area of opportunity” by Philip Morris, and over the last fifteen years it and other tobacco companies have openly and aggressively targeted gays and lesbians.
Tobacco companies continue placing ads in gay and lesbian targeted magazines that specifically appeal to these populations and present tobacco use as masculine, sexy, and a way to be independent or rebellious. As a consequence, many feel that smoking is simply a part of being gay.
The industry also actively reaches out to the gay and lesbian community through direct and indirect advertising, outreach and sponsorships at gay media, gay community events, and AIDS organizations. Learn about SCUM, a tobacco campaign targeted to LGBT and the homeless.
The tobacco industry’s “concern” about this community’s choices and freedoms are veiled attempts to promote and sell their tobacco. Some characterize contributions to AIDS services and other charities as a way
of neutralizing the voices that otherwise would speak out against this
Findings from the National Youth Advocacy Coalition indicate that LGBT youth smoke at a rate that is almost twice that of their heterosexual peers, and the Coalition suggests that the impact of tobacco on this segment of youth is even more dire. The tobacco industry encourages initial experimentation in teens and youth, and works to solidify these habits during transitional times in their lives by studying their habits, values and environments to effectively infiltrate them with their marketing. To prey upon LGBT youth, the tobacco industry promotes smoking as a way to enhance self-image, experiment, and enhance group identification with an “alternative” crowd.
In addition to the draw of smoking to the general youth population, for LGBT youth, the reasons for using tobacco multiply. They include:
Use of alcohol and drugs can exacerbate smoking habits and inhibit quitting, as can being part of a community that is more likely to be smoking. Smoking increases the likelihood of developing complications from HIV, as does exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, many LGBT are less likely to seek routine medical care and get regular physicals.
Data indicates that fewer LGBTs have made an attempt to quit tobacco use. Often they do not have access to quit support programs – even those specifically targeted to them. Here are some ways to begin:
Gay and Lesbian Medical Association – Healthy People 2010: Companion Document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health, pdf and links.
Ciggy Buttz – Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered health products.
National Youth Advocacy Coalition – Anti-smoking guide for LBBTQ Youth.
Research, Publications & Statistics
National Coalition for LGBT Health – Resources and research on tobacco, including The National LGBT Communities Tobacco Action Plan, Fact Sheets and links.
The Outing of Philip Morris: Advertising Tobacco to Gay Men from The American Journal of Public Health.
Project SCUM – Internal tobacco industry documents from American Legacy Foundation.
Cancer Facts for Gay and Bisexual Men - Share this with someone you care about.
Community & Outreach
Mautner Project – Part of the National Lesbian Health Association. Includes downloadable brochure on Cessation for Lesbians, anti-tobacco posters, postcards, candy, T-shirts, and outreach materials.
National LGBT Tobacco Control Network. Facts, links and publications, including Running a Culturally Competent LGBT Smoking Treatment Group, smoking cessation manual, and Smoke Free Outdoor Pride event toolkit.
Tobacco.org – Tobacco news and information, including LGBT.
Tobacco Education Clearinghouse – Online catalog of educational materials and brochures and LGBT specific titles.