Why do Queer People Smoke More?
According to the CDC, approximately 3 percent of the US population is a lesbian, gay, or bisexual person. However, 20.5 percent of those adults smoke cigarettes – compared to approximately 15 percent of heterosexual adults.
Until recently, there was not any good data on what that percentage was for transgender adults. This was due to a lack of research that specifically targeted trans adults. It has recently been found that transgender young adults are much more likely to smoke cigarettes than their LGB or heterosexual counterparts – approximately 33 percent.
Start Smoking Earlier
Smoking rates for kids and teens are down to 6% nationwide. That number doesn’t look as good for queer youth.
Based on the data available from 1987 to 2000, the rate of smoking among queer youth is expected to be more than twice that of their heterosexual counterparts.
In fact, lesbian and bisexual women are 9.7 times more likely to smoke cigarettes regularly then straight women, according to a 2004 study published in JAMA Pediatrics, an American Medical Association publication.
Because this population starts smoking so much earlier, they are more likely to experience adverse health effects and less likely to stop smoking as adults.
Tobacco Companies Market Directly to LGBT events and locations
In the mid-1990s, the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company specifically set out to market their products to LGBT and homeless populations in a project that was aptly named “Project SCUM.”
That stood for subculture urban marketing, but it started a trend where the tobacco industry made large donations to AIDS research and sponsored LGBT Pride and GLAAD events. This sort of dedicated marketing, paired with a lack of health insurance for many of these individuals, may have been part of the reason that smoking has become such a huge part of queer culture.
That project has since been ended, but even today, tobacco companies are commonly found to sponsor local pride events, as well as queer spaces like bars.
Often, the only safe spaces that queer people find in public are places like bars that make it more likely for them to use and abuse alcohol and cigarettes simply because of where they’re spending their time. That’s not to say that the money that the tobacco companies are putting in is not useful to the community, but it does lead to a higher than usual rate of smoking.
Higher Stress Related Risk Factors
As you might expect, LGBT community members experience an overall higher level of stress related to homophobia and other prejudices against their community. This is one of the factors that leads them to smoke more as a group. Smoking is a common stress relief method, and one that has been normalized in LGBT spaces because of the reasons mentioned in the above sections.
The CDC also discovered that LGBT smokers are less likely to have health insurance, which is what usually pays for most smoking cessation treatments. They are also less likely call a smoking hot line to get help. For those seeking help with smoking-related issues, visit LGBT Healthlink, which is funded by the CDC specifically to reduce LGBT cancer and tobacco issues.