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The biggest killer in the LGBT community may not be what you think

Nobody likes to be told what they can’t do, especially if that involves something that makes them feel good in some way. But there is one thing that is killing the LGBTQ community more than anything else, and it may not be their fault.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women are smoking a lot more than the heterosexual community.

There are many causes as to why this is happening and the American Lung Association (ALA) breaks down the reasons with some statistics and information.

The ALA reports that gay and bisexual men who smoke cigarettes is 27-percent to 71-percent higher than the general population and lesbian and bisexual women are at a whopping 70 to 350-percent.

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The reason for these high numbers the ALA reports is the stress of being gay, peer pressure, aggressive marketing and limited information about how to quit.

The LGBT community is a stressed-out culture. The discrimination and persecution they face can cause some to feel marginalized by the general public.

The AMA reports that people who smoke are more likely to be immersed in groups that experience high levels of stress.

When this stress starts at an early age, such as coming out to families and being rejected by them, smoking cigarettes can ease some of the pressure.

Not only does the act of smoking - breathing in and out slowly – have a calming effect, individuals who find peers in similar situations bond if they share a common interest.

Homeless LGBT youth for instance, may find comradery in those that share in their same experiences. It is reported that family rejection is an indicator of negative health outcomes, including suicide.

As for LGBT people who do not face such intense rejections from family, they may experience pressure from peers or others inside their community.

Historically, the LGBT culture has congregated at bars and clubs. In more rural areas, this may be the only means by which gay and lesbian people can interact. Most gay bars have a section set aside, usually outside, where people can smoke and socialize.

Compounding the problem even further, one study summarizes that LGBT individuals are less-likely to have health insurance. The study points out that lesbians are less likely to have had an annual checkup, and gay men are more likely to have un-met medical needs.

However, there are other powers at play in the community. Tobacco companies are constantly marketing their products to gay and lesbian men and women. Free packs of cigarettes in bar situations and aggressive advertising can enhance the allure of tobacco usage.

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Tobacco companies also participate in “false support.” They contribute to LGBT political campaigns, fund fairs and film fests through their companies or companies they own. They sponsor Pride festivals, LGBT and HIV interests.

Perhaps the overall LGBT population does not think that tobacco use is a priority concern given the other problems that the community faces: discrimination, bullying, HIV/AIDS and overall violations of civil rights.

Recently The North Carolina Tobacco Prevention and Control Branch (NCTPCB) used smartphone technology to place anti-smoking ads and information on cellphones owned by gays and lesbians in North Carolina.

The group used demographic, geographic and content-based interests stored in digital communication devices to target the LGBT community. The two month campaign reached 1.76 million interested users and 2,000 individuals wanting to know more about quitting.

The LGBT community, on average, smokes three times more than heterosexuals. Tobacco kills more people than any other cause combined.

Statistics and studies have shown: Stress, advertising, peer pressure and the lack of education are making cigarette smoking the most used weapon in killing LGBT members.

For more information on the health issues of tobacco and learning how to quit, check out the following sites:



California Smoker’s Helpline

Centers for Disease Control

Timothy Rawles is Community Editor of SDGLN. He can be reached at editor@sdgln.com, @reporter66 on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.