Smoking Out a Deadly Threat

Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community

(June 29, 2010)

Today, the American Lung Association released its latest health disparity report, Smoking Out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community, which examines the trend of higher tobacco use among the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community.

While LGBT people are represented in every part of the American population, the lack of data collection information on sexual orientation and gender identity in most state and national health surveys means trends within the community can go unnoticed. Nonetheless, current data indicates the LGBT population smokes at a higher rate than the general public. Key facts regarding this disparity include:

  • 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.

"The American Lung Association issued Smoking Out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community to raise awareness of this health disparity and address the need for additional research specific to the LGBT community and tobacco use," said Charles D. Connor, American Lung Association President and CEO. "Like other groups disproportionately affected by tobacco use including African Americans and Native Americans, the LGBT population needs targeted efforts to reduce smoking rates, which will ultimately save lives."

The Lung Association's compilation of research found possible contributing factors to the LGBT smoking rate including: stress and discrimination related to homophobia, the tobacco industry's targeted marketing to LGBT customers, and lack of access to culturally appropriate tobacco treatment programs among various other factors.

The American Lung Association is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and all state Departments of Health to include sexual orientation and gender identity questions in public health surveys.  State and local tobacco control programs should work to ensure prevention and cessation programs, materials and staff are culturally competent and inclusive of the LGBT community. LGBT advocacy organizations should advocate for policies to promote tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and identify alternative funding sources to tobacco industry sponsorship.

The Smoking Out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community report is the second in the American Lung Association's Disparities in Lung Health series, which aims to better understand why specific populations are susceptible to worse lung health. This report builds on the Lung Association's long-standing commitment to saving lives and improving lung health for all Americans. For more information about lung disease in various populations, see the recently released State of Lung Disease in Diverse Communities: 2010 and Too Many Cases, Too Many Deaths: Lung Cancer in African Americans, available at www.lung.org.

The American Lung Association has several programs that help tens of thousands of smokers take the big step of quitting each year. Freedom From Smoking  provides a personalized, step-by-step quit plan and is offered online (www.ffsonline.org) or as a group clinic to help smokers work through the problems and process of quitting. The Lung HelpLine (1-800-LUNG-USA) provides smoking cessation counseling and one-on-one support from registered nurses and respiratory therapists. Smoking cessation support, lung cancer treatment information and additional resources are available at www.lung.org.