Smoking rates higher in the LGBT community

The American Lung Association (ALA) has come out with a new study showing that members of the LGBT community are more likely to smoke than cis and hetero folks. While higher rates of smoking and drinking among marginalized groups have been discussed in the Feministing community before, having hard evidence is even more validating:

  • Gay, bisexual and transgender men are 2.0 to 2.5 times more likely to smoke than heterosexual men.
  • Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are 1.5 to 2.0 times more likely to smoke than heterosexual women.
  • Bisexual boys and girls have some of the highest smoking rates when compared with both their heterosexual and homosexual peers.

Good on ALA for doing this. They’re also calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and all state Departments of Health to include sexual orientation and gender identity in public health surveys. Check out the details of the study. (PDF)

Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    I started smoking at 15 and didn’t really stop until I was about 26. I haven’t had a cigarette since November of 2008 (Presidential Election Night) and got so sick when I did that the thought hasn’t seriously crossed my mind since then.
    Nicotine produces an instant kick of dopamine, and that’s why it’s so easy to get addicted. I remember that if I were ever stressed out, which was frequently, I would immediately light up. People who deal constantly with feelings of alienation or who feel that they are misunderstood for any reason very easily seek ways to self-medicate. I realize now that I was self-medicating with nicotine. That bisexual men and women feel the strongest compulsion of all towards smoking doesn’t really surprise me in the least. It only confirms my own experience.

  • Audentia

    Most of the people I know who smoke do so only when drinking/drunk. I would like to see statistics on alcohol use and LGBT people–especially teens/young adults.
    I am worried that this news will be spun to “Omigosh look at the irresponsible gay people who party all the time and are making YOUR health insurance premiums go up” instead of “it really must still be a struggle not to be het and/or cis.”

  • uberhausfrau

    Major kudos to the ALA.
    how often do you see “inequitable social and economic policies/environmental and institutionalised racism” in mainstream organisations’ reports?

  • Surfin3rdWave

    I have noticed how prevalent smoking is within “hip” lesbian circles.
    Most GLBT-friendly coffee shops seem to be full of young women smoking American Spirits. I had temporarily started smoking because I had this idea that it was “what all the cool kids are doing”– like I’d somehow be cuter or more “alternative” if I joined the crowd.
    I think a lot of young lesbians begin smoking to make a sort of alt-lifestyle fashion statement.

  • mamram

    Yeah, I definitely agree with this. It makes sense that the stresses of being a member of a marginalized group would make quitting harder, but smoking isn’t a stress relief if you aren’t addicted yet. I always thought it was a little funny when I was younger and friends of mine would insist that they started smoking because “my new job is just so stressful.” Nobody starts smoking to relieve their stress. Most people do it, at least to a certain degree, for fashion and peer acceptance. Nobody likes admitting it, but it was certainly a large part of why I started smoking, if I am honest about it.

  • tomorrowshorizon

    My sexual orientation is kind of ambiguous at the moment, but when I first started smoking I identified as bisexual and was dating a bisexual smoker. I picked it up partially out of curiosity, and partially out of a desire to be cool and to undermine my blond-haired blue-eyed good-girl appearance so that I would get invited to do all the rebellious fun things I actually wanted to do (like sexual activity and smoking pot) but everyone assumed I didn’t want to do because I wasn’t “that kind of girl.” I wanted to *become* that liberated, defiant, fearless, dangerous “kind of girl” that others refused to see me as. Fortunately or unfortunately, it kind of worked, and now it’s hard to stop because I *like* the image of myself as a smoker…even though I know I can be all those things without smoking, I’m afraid other people will read me the wrong way. I wish I’d just dressed like a punk or something.
    But while my smoking status was formed in a heavily LGBT-influenced environment, it didn’t get excessive until I got to college and started hanging out with some straight sorority girls, and it’s actually my gender identity more than my sexual orientation that creates problems for me when I try to quit. Like I said above, I love the way my habit fucks with people’s attempt to read me as a particular brand of “good girl” – if we must live in a world with a double standard, then dammit I’d rather be (seen as) the dirty, pleasure-seeking “whore” than the isolated, repressed “Madonna.”
    But even worse – whenever I try to quit, I turn into an emotional wreck. I become “hysterical” in the fully gendered sense – the last time I tried to quit I sobbed intermittently for at least two days about my boyfriend staying in a city 30 minutes away for three weeks. That’s something I NEVER would have done otherwise, and that does NOT reconcile well at all with my image of self. The time before that, when I was trying to quit, I convinced myself I might be pregnant even though the odds were vanishingly small. Both me and my boyfriend are not okay with me being a crazy stereotypical caricature of womanhood instead of my usually emotionally secure and independent feminist self. At the end of the day I’d just rather feel like and look like my normally well-balanced, independent self than feel and look psychotically melodramatic all the time.
    I’m going to quit, though. Soon. Definitely by the time I graduate. I just realized I can’t do it at the same time my boyfriend is moving across the country from me in order to attend the prestigious grad school we were both delighted he got accepted to. I’ll have to do it after I’ve adjusted to his relocation. Because I can’t cope with my live-in partner being suddenly physically absent from my daily life, as well as the loss of frequent partnered sex, while quitting smoking. A girl can only deal with so much at one time, and I can’t afford to have my coping skills in shambles right now. :-/