American Lung Association Report Highlights Higher Smoking Rates in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Community

Statement by Jane Warner, President and CEO, American Lung Association in California

Sacramento, CA (June 29, 2010)

The American Lung Association released its latest health disparity report today, Smoking Out A Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community, a compilation of research that examines the trend of higher tobacco use among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and the need for additional research specific to this community. Key facts regarding this disparity include the following:

  • 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 report reveals that possible contributing factors to this disparity includes stress and discrimination related to homophobia, the tobacco industry's targeted marketing to the LGBT community, and a lack of access to culturally appropriate tobacco prevention programs and smoking cessation treatments.

The American Lung Association in California is deeply committed to the fight against tobacco and its harmful effects to the health of all Californians. The LGBT community has long been part of our population, yet they are often treated as the invisible minority. In California, more than 40 percent of LGBT young adults between the ages of 18-24 smoke, compared to less than 14 percent of their peers in the state's general population.  More striking is the fact that at least 33,000 gays and lesbians in California die each year from smoking-related illnesses.

Understanding and eliminating this disparity will take a concerted group effort from the healthcare industry, governments, LGBT advocacy organizations and individuals. We call on the state and local Departments of Health to include sexual orientation and gender identity questions in public health surveys. We also ask all tobacco control programs to ensure that prevention and cessation programs are inclusive of the LGBT community. Lastly, we urge LGBT organizations to recognize that tobacco use is a public health priority, help promote tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and identify alternative funding sources to tobacco industry sponsorship.

Together, we can reduce this disparity and fulfill our mission of improving lung health and preventing lung disease for all people.

Smoking Out A Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community is the second report in the American Lung Association's Disparities in Lung Health Series, which takes an in-depth look at lung health disparities among diverse populations.