Survey Finds High Tobacco Use in LGBT Population

September 24, 2012

A new survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just published in the American Journal of Public Health, finds significantly higher rates of tobacco use among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans.

While the high rates of tobacco use are cause for concern, the survey also represents an important breakthrough:  It is the first national survey to measure LGBT tobacco use, providing critical data to track trends and improve efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use in this population.

The National Adult Tobacco Survey showed:

  • 38.5 percent of LGBT Americans surveyed currently used some form of tobacco, compared to 25.2 percent of the entire population.

  • 32.8 percent of LGBT respondents said they smoked cigarettes, compared to 19.5 percent for the entire population.

  • 12.2 percent smoked cigars, cigarillos or little cigars, compared to 6.6 percent overall. 

Health leaders cheered the inclusion of the LGBT-specific data, while calling for action to reduce the high rates of tobacco use.

“These data provide the first national benchmark of adult LGBT tobacco use and we applaud the Office of Smoking and Health at CDC for their leadership in LGBT integration and data collection,” said Dr. Scout, director of the Network for LGBT Health Equity at The Fenway Institute.  “Unfortunately, these findings confirm the bad news that LGBT people smoke cigarettes at rates 68 percent higher than the general population and that our overall tobacco use is 50 percent higher.

“It’s clearer than ever that tobacco use is one of the largest single health burdens on the LGBT community…. I look forward to the day when every tobacco control program includes LGBT tailored work and every tobacco industry marketing program doesn’t.”

The tobacco companies have long targeted the LGBT community.  A particularly notorious plan by R.J. Reynolds, to sell more Camel cigarettes in San Francisco, was called Project SCUM for “subculture urban marketing.”  The plan is documented in tobacco industry documents discovered during court cases.

According to the CDC researchers, the high rate of tobacco use among LGBT people “may be related to stresses of social stigma, peer pressure, or targeting by the tobacco industry.”

Free help in quitting smoking is available by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting www.smokefree.gov.

Image: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention