LGBTQ+ Community and Lung Health

The Lung Association recognizes and is committed to addressing the health inequities experienced by those in the LGBTQ+ community.

According to Human Rights Campaign Foundation Report, there at least 20 million people in the United States that identify as LGBTQ+, and yet this group continues to face persistent health inequities. It is essential to recognize these inequities and the unique challenges and disparities people who are LGBTQ+ face in accessing quality care.  

These challenges are due to a range of factors, including societal stigma, discrimination and a lack of cultural competency within the healthcare system. From mental health disparities to inadequate access to inclusive sexual and reproductive healthcare, addressing and eliminating health inequities for members of the LGBTQ+ community requires an understanding of the relationship between identity, social structures and healthcare provision. By fostering inclusivity, education and tailored support, we can strive for a future where every individual, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, receives equitable and affirming healthcare. 

Lung Health and the LGBTQ+ Community


Asthma is a chronic (or lifelong) disease that makes it harder to move air in and out of your lungs and can be serious—even life-threatening. From 2013-2018, according to CDC data, gay and bisexual men and women were significantly more likely to have ever been diagnosed with asthma than straight men and women, respectively. Among those with asthma, gay men were significantly more likely to have had an asthma attack in the past year than straight men.4 Learn more about the basics of asthma.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is a long-term lung disease that makes it hard to breathe. The disease affects millions of Americans and is a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. While 2013-2018 COPD rates did not differ by orientation for either men or women,4 other CDC data from 2017-2019 found gay, lesbian, or bisexual; 10.3% were more likely to report having been diagnosed with COPD compared to heterosexuals (6.9%).5 

Flu & Pneumonia

Gay men were significantly more likely to have received a flu vaccination in the past 12 months than straight or bisexual men or those who identified as having other sexual orientation according to a 2013-2018 NHIS results. Straight women were more likely to have received a flu vaccination in the past 12 months compared to women of any other orientation. Gay men were significantly more likely to have ever received a pneumonia vaccination compared to straight men, while gay/lesbian and bisexual women were less likely to have done so compared to heterosexual women.4

Data Limitations

The CDC surveys utilized in this webpage only ask about sexual orientation and not gender identity. Similarly, cancer registries do not collect information on either sexual orientation or gender identity. Acknowledgment of this deficiency is growing, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2017 recommending sexual orientation and gender identity data collection by cancer registries added fields for such information tomorrow, they are only aggregating information from healthcare providers who generally do not ask about or document sexual orientation and gender identity, and work is required to change these practices and norms. Finally, despite combining multiple years of data, some sample sizes were too small to allow for accurate estimates for some groups on some measures. Fortunately, such occurrences were rare.6 

*Selection options offered by the CDC for respondents were Straight, Gay/Lesbian, Bisexual, Something Else and I Don’t Know the Answer. 

Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity

LGBTQ+ is an umbrella term that represents a range of sexual orientations and gender identities. These letters stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning. The plus sign is to indicate the infinite number of identities and orientations such as Pansexual, Questioning, Two-Spirit, Intersex, and Asexual. The language used to talk about LGBTQ+ people is constantly evolving. To learn more, use this glossary of terms. Even though you see sexual orientations and gender identifies all together in this acronym – someone's gender identity tells us nothing about their sexual orientation. To learn more about the spectrum of sex and gender, check out this resource from the Trevor Project. Creating safe and inclusive spaces is essential to adequately address health disparities faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Using inclusive language, including correct pronouns, is an important first step. 

Why Pronouns Matter

Using a person’s chosen name and correct pronouns is a form of mutual respect and basic courtesy. For some people, biological sex and gender identity/expression/presentation all align and people correctly assume pronouns. However, this is not the case for everyone. It’s important to remember that gender identity is not visible—it’s an internal sense of one’s own gender. A culture that readily asks or provides pronouns is one committed to reducing the risk of disrespect or embarrassment for both parties. For a more complete overview about why pronouns matter in the workplace, read this resource from the Human Rights Campaign. Whether you identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, consider getting into the habit of sharing your pronouns when introducing yourself and adding your pronouns to places like your social media profiles and e-mail signature. 

Gender neutral pronouns, such as the singular use of “they”, are often used in place of “he” or “she”.

American Dialect Society declared the singular “they” as the 2015 word of the year. Merriam-Webster did the same in 2019. For more information about gender-neutral pronouns, use this resource from the University of Minnesota.

Examples of Pronouns

Examples of Pronouns:

  • She/Her/Hers
    1. She is an award-winning Pulmonologist. 
  • He/Him/His
    1. He was wearing a Fight For Air Climb t-shirt. 
  • They/Them/Theirs
    1. This is (name) and they are a LUNG FORCE Hero.  
  • Zi/Zir/Zirs
    1. Zi wrote a carefully researched article on asthma.

Proud LGBTQ+ Programs & Partnerships

San Bernardino, California

LGBTQ+ Tobacco Control Project

Spearheaded by the American Lung Association in California, this project focuses on reducing tobacco-related health disparities and improve health equity among African American/Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latinx, and LGBTQ+ populations. This project is focused on building and maintaining partnerships with the LGBTQ+ community in San Bernardino, Riverside, and Imperial Counties to enact and implement municipal smoke free outdoor dining and bar policies, flavor restriction and tobacco retail licensure policies, and smoke free policies for area Pride events to reduce the impact of tobacco use throughout the community and increase the community’s protections from secondhand smoke and the harms of tobacco use.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Camp Rehoboth

The American Lung Association in Delaware collaborates with a local organization called Camp Rehoboth to expand tobacco education and cessation to LGBTQ+ youth and young adults. Camp Rehoboth is a community service organization dedicated to creating a positive environment inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Rehoboth Beach and its related communities. Camp Rehoboth has incorporated the American Lung Association’s N-O-T and INDEPTH programs to help their youth quit and stay tobacco-free.

State of Iowa

#ProudQuitter Campaign

To reduce tobacco use rates in the LGBTQ+ community, the American Lung Association in Iowa created the Proud Quitter campaign. This campaign highlights all identities of the LGBTQ+ community in their own words on how they quit tobacco. The campaign promoted the Iowa Quitline and American Lung Association cessation resources through handouts, social media and video testimonials.

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center

The American Lung Association in Pennsylvania partners with the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center to provide cessation resources and tobacco free signage at pride events. Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center develops LGBTQ+ health programs and after school art and culture programs. The American Lung Association also provides technical assistance to local LGBTQ+ health clinics and advocates for inclusive health systems changes. The Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center also serves in leadership in the statewide tobacco control coalition.

For more information on these programs, please contact [email protected].

Tobacco Use & the LGBTQ+ Community

Tobacco Industry Marketing

Project SCUM

Tobacco products are one of the most heavily marketed consumer products in the U.S. In 2018, the nine major cigarette and smokeless tobacco companies spent $9.06 billion to promote and advertise their products.1 The tobacco industry was one of the first to develop marketing materials specifically targeting the LGBTQ+ community. The most infamous example of this was so-called Project SCUM (which stands for "Subculture Urban Marketing"), a plan by RJ Reynolds in the mid-1990s to market their Red Kamel brand to gay men in San Francisco's Castro District and homeless people in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood.2 Learn more here.

Tobacco Use Rates

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults and youth smoke at substantially higher rates than the general population. The factors driving LGBT disparities in tobacco use include stress due to social stigma and discrimination, peer pressure, aggressive marketing by the tobacco industry and limited access to effective tobacco cessation treatment.3 According to date from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2013-2018, gay men and those who identified as something else (not gay, lesbian or bisexual) had significantly higher cigarette smoking rates compared to straight men, as did gay/lesbian and bisexual women compared to straight women. Straight males had higher rates of e-cigarette use than either gay, bisexual, or males who answered “Not Sure,” while bisexual females had the highest rate of any group, and gay/lesbian females had a greater rate than straight females. E-cigarette use was also greater among gay/lesbian and bisexual females than males.4

Quit Tobacco for Good

Quitting isn't easy but more than 50 million ex-smokers in the United States are proof that it's possible. Despite what e-cigarette companies want you to believe, switching to vaping (e-cigarettes) is not quitting smoking. E-cigarettes are tobacco products, they contain nicotine, and FDA has not approved any e-cigarette as a quit smoking device. Enrolling in a tobacco counseling program, such as American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking®, can increase your chances of success by up to 60% when used in combination with FDA-approved medication. 

In addition to a comprehensive quit program, we encourage quitters to join our Freedom From Smoking Inspire Online Discussion and Support Community to stay connected with others along their quit journey, give and receive peer-to-peer support every step along the way, all staying connected and engaged, while following social distancing guidelines. 

If you or someone you know is interested in quitting and would like to take advantage of the Lung Association’s support, they can visit, register today and begin their journey to freedom.   For more information about quitting visit the American Lung Association website at: or call us at 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872).

LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Pride Month, celebrated in June, commemorates the 1969 riots at the Stonewall Inn and the birth of the Gay Rights Movement in America. Since that time, Pride Month has grown to be a global celebration of the diversity, accomplishments, trailblazers, and beauty of the LGBTQ+ community. The American Lung Association is committed to commemorating Pride Month by highlighting regional healthcare organizations doing incredible work for the LGBTQ+ community. The Lung Association recognizes and is committed to addressing the health inequities experienced by those in the LGBTQ+ community, including recognizing the disproportionate levels of tobacco-related lung diseases as a result of decades of direct targeting by Big Tobacco. As the trusted champion of lung health, the Lung Association strives for a world free from lung disease and that includes our year-round commitment to reducing health disparities faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco Industry Marketing. 202.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking & Tobacco Use: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons and Tobacco Use. 2019.
  3. Ryan H, et al. Smoking among lesbians, gays and bisexuals: a review of the literature. American Journal of Prevention Medicine. 2001; 21:142-149
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey 2013-2018. Analysis performed by the American Lung Association Research and Program Services Division using SPSS and SUDAAN software.
  5. Heslin KC, Hall JE. Sexual Orientation Disparities in Risk Factors for Adverse COVID-19–Related Outcomes, by Race/Ethnicity — Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2017–2019. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2021; 70:149-154.
  6. Gomez SC, Duffy C, Griggs JJ, John EM. Surveillance of cancer among sexual and gender minority populations: Where are we and where do we need to go? Cancer 2019; 125: 4360-4362.
Freedom From Smoking Clinic
Detroit, MI | May 29, 2024
Asthma Basics Workshop - National
, | Jun 18, 2024