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Smoking & the LGBT Community
Center Facts

All Fact Sheets
LGBT Seniors in DC
LGBT Youth in DC
Smoking in our Community
Smoking & HIV/AIDS
Transgender Community

In Summary

The American Cancer Society reports that “each year about 438,000 people in the United States die from illnesses related to smoking. Cigarettes kill more Americans than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined.”

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the United States continues to be disproportionately impacted by smoking. The LGBT community is among the populations most severely impacted by tobacco use. The most recent study suggests the LGBT community smokes at a rate almost 50% to 200% higher than the general population. This is in part due to Tobacco Companies that aggressively advertise to the LGBT Community. The social stress of living in a society that can be hostile to LGBT people, also plays a factor in higher smoking rates, particularly among LGBT youth.

Smoking cessation is an important component of LGBT health and wellness. Residents of the District of Columbia can access free support to quit smoking by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. DC residents who call this number can get free smoking cessation aids like nicotine gum or patches.

The LGBT Community is Disproportionately Impacted by Tobacco
  • Members of the LGBT community smoke at a far greater rate than that of the general population, although estimates vary widely. In one 2004 California Study, lesbian women were 70% more likely to smoke than other women, and gay men were more than 50% more likely to smoke than other men. More recent research suggests this number may be even higher. The LGBT National Tobacco Control Network estimates that the LGBT community is 50% to 200% more likely than others to be addicted to tobacco. 1, 2
  • LGBT adolescents also smoke at an alarming rate, in one national study 47 of females and 36.7 of males reporting same-sex attraction or behavior smoked. In comparison, only 29% of the rest of young people in the study smoked. 3
Negative Health Impacts of Smoking are Clear
  • Tobacco is the number one cause of mortality in this country. 4The American Cancer Society estimates that over 30,000 LGBT people die each year of tobacco-related diseases. 5This is a conservative estimate, because it presumes we smoke at the same rate as the rest of the population.
  • Adults who smoke lose an average of 13 to 14 years of their lives. 6
  • In the United States , about 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in women are due to smoking. 7
  • Smoking causes coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States . Cigarette smokers are 2–4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers. 8
Smoking and HIV/AIDS
  • Smoking weakens the immune system, and makes it even harder to fight off opportunistic infections associated with HIV. Smoking also increases the risk of HIV-associated malignancies and other cancers found among people living with HIV/AIDS. Further, HIV positive individuals who are at greater risk for heart disease because of lypodystrophy, significantly compound that risk by smoking. 9
Tobacco Companies Have Targeted our Community
  • The tobacco industry spends more than $13 billion each year to promote cigarette use in the United States . 10 The Tobacco company has targeted the LGBT community since at least 1991, advertising at Pride and other LGBT community events, and contributing to both national and local LGBT and HIV/AIDS Organizations. 11 Some HIV/AIDS organizations in DC continue to accept tobacco money.
  • An early Tobacco industry document described the plan for increasing sales among San Francisco 's gay and homeless populations, it was labeled “Project SCUM”. 12
Social Stress Factors also Contribute to Increased Smoking Rates.
  • The stress of living in a society that can sometimes be hostile to the LGBT community creates social stress that makes many LGBT people, but particularly LGBT youth, at greater risk for substance use. 13
  • 30% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students in the District of Columbia said they were bullied at least once on school property in the 2006-2007 school year. More than a quarter of GLB high school students said they had skipped school once or more in the past month because they felt unsafe in school or on the way to school. 14 Social stress factors such as these contribute to greater smoking rates.
LGBT People and Smoking Cessation
  • Although more lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender smokers believe smoking increases their risk of diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease, fewer have made quit attempts (75% compared with 80% of all adults). 15
  • It can be helpful to find a resource for someone that needs help quitting smoking, and there happens to be plenty of them online.

  • Residents of the District of Columbia can access free support to quit smoking by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW. DC residents who call this number can get free smoking cessation aids like nicotine gum or patches.
  • The DC Center offers smoking cessation support for all LGBT people and allies which comes with nicotine replacement therapy. Combining nicotine replacement therapy with such a program will double your chances of quitting successfully. 16



The DC Center for the LGBT Community
(202) 682-2245
2000 14th Street NW, Suite 105
Washington, DC 20009

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