Alex Blaze

Gays smoke more than straights

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 27, 2009 3:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: cigarette smoking, lesbian, LGBT, North Carolina, queer, smoking, study, university of north carolina at chapel hill

Yeah, in case you needed another study to convince you:

The findings, published in the August issue of the journal, Tobacco Control, show that as many as 37 percent of homosexual women and 33 percent of homosexual men smoke. That compares to national smoking rates of 18 percent for women and 24 percent for men in the 2006 National Health Interview Survey. [...]

"The underlying causes of these disparities are not fully explained by this review," Lee said. "Likely explanations include the success of tobacco industry's targeted marketing to gays and lesbians, as well as time spent in smoky social venues and stress from discrimination."

"Tobacco is likely the number one cause of death among gays and lesbians," Lee said, "but there is hope. Many gay and lesbian organizations are starting to reject addictive funding from the tobacco industry, and the community is organizing itself to address this health inequality through the National LGBT Tobacco Control Network."

That "time spent in smoky social venues" is probably a big one. The only times I've ever subjected myself to second-hand smoke have been in gay bars, usually because there's only one in town so there isn't much choice.

What do you think? Studies saying G and L people smoke more have been around for a while.... What's the cause?


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Many of the queers I've interacted with smoke. It's mostly men, though; women smoke less.

I sually cut any social interaction with them. If they were polite and went to smoke away from people and not smoking in the car, I might deal with them. But in my experience, most smokers are rude and just smoke wherever they can get away with it, regardless of the discomforts of people (I recall murderous feelings at bus stops when this guy would sti on the bench, smoke, and the wind was blowing all the smoke toward the other people).

They're also fucking pigs as well. The building I lived in had a cigarette bin, and they instead would pepper the stairs and the edges of the bin with the stubs rather than throw it inside the bin.

Oh, and I won't date a smoker; they have horrid breath, even with constant brushing of teeth.

To be an lgbt adult is to be acclimated to taking risks. Smoking has lost much of its public acceptance, but the first step in coming out is recognizing that we can't tie our personal well-being to how well we'll be accepted.

I don't know how much that factors in to the smoking rates; I grew up detesting smoky spaces (it was the 60s/70s, the parents smoked in the house and car), making it easy enough to never consider it.

That being said, I also haven't had Lucrece's experience. Most of the smokers I've known have been considerate and unobtrusive about it. Many have been above-average in fastidiousness, even.

If we want to talk about prevention, I think the place to start is with teens and young adults. The focus needs to be on providing safe spaces, overall harm reduction (safer sex, alcohol and other drug education, tobacco), and making good mental health care available.

"as many as 37 percent of homosexual women and 33 percent of homosexual men smoke. That compares to national smoking rates of 18 percent for women and 24 percent for men in the 2006 National Health Interview Survey."

I had always assumed gay men would have a higher percentage of smokers, because of the national smoking rates. Surprising. I wonder why gay women smoke more than gay men. As a queer female smoker, I'm not entirely surprised by these numbers. I have tried to quit twice - total fail. When I was a teen smoker (and still in the closet), I didn't know any GLBTQ people who were non-smokers.

Lucrece: I'm a smoker and I have been for eight years (I'm 22). I am very courteous about it--never smoke near people who aren't smokers/smoking, when I'm in a public space I move away from doors/doorways, children/families, and I am very careful about where I blow the smoke. I also carry scented body cream and gum/mints and sometimes even a small body spray to spray my hair (i.e. if I'm going to work). I know many, many smokers who are just as courteous, or generally as courteous, as me. It's offensive to me when people make generalizations about smokers, making insinuations about our character, cleanliness, or implying we have a lack of social etiquette. There are a lot of rude, careless, dirty, negative people in the world, and yeah, some of them smoke. But please don't generalize. Every smoker is different.

Generalizations are a practical way of summarizing personal experience.

I'm sure there are many exceptions, and that everyone's different. I'm just explaining why I simply choose to segregate myself. It's not as if your existence needs to be affirmed by some blanket statement-using asshole like me.

My thought, from personal experience, is smoking can be linked to depression or low self esteem, maybe even the desire to live a shorter life span. There can be so much pain in the lives of those struggling for acceptance even from themselves that why not smoke? What does one have to lose?
I quit sometime ago. Now that I have found love and acceptance, gone through the tunnel and come out the other side, I care about my health, my life, my loved ones' lives. Life is love and joy, smoking does not fit in. Every moment is precious, why burn them up in smoke?

I don't smoke and i'm a gay teen. I think though from personal experience it's because i have two parents who support me and alot of lgbt people have parents that are very unsupportive of there lgbt family members. Smoking habits come from people who have very little assistance from the parents so society is the cause for this habit. If gays were treated and religion didn't mix with politics than maybe the parents would be more accepting of their lgbt children and those children would be lead into the right habits. I personally think that this survey is not going to help out the lgbt community. I mean the homophobics are just gonna use this against us along with the hiv scare and the face that we like the same sex. Thanks alot tobacco companies, you suck.
By the way go to my blog to discuss gay issues.
I started a week ago and i post every other day.

I started smoking when I was 14 because it was "the cool thing to do." I still smoke because I'm addicted. I'm not proud of it but one of my biggest pet peeves is the judgmental attitudes some non-smokers have.

I'm going to use Lucrece as my example but I should point out that I don't actually know Lucrece and any motivations I might suggest may not be true since I'm generalizing.

#1 - Most smokers are rude. I actually find smokers to be a rather genial lot. Non-smokers tend to be much more judgmental, condescending and generally nasty to smokers. There's nothing worse than a former smoker who has to evangelize more than a holy roller or the non-smoker who feels it's their duty to constantly tell you, "You know, you shouldn't smoke because it's bad for you."

#2 - While Lucrece says we smoke "where we can get away with it," in a lot of places we can't "get away with it;" it's been banned. Smoking in a place where smoking is allowed isn't "getting away with it," it's doing what we want where we can. More and more places have become non-smoking and complaining that it happens in places where it's allowed is maddening.

#3 - The "pigs" comment. While I know tons of people who complain about dirty ashtrays located in spots where smoking is allowed, they have no problem littering on a city street. Should smokers always use an ashtray? Of course. Everyone should dispose of trash in the appropriate spot; singling out smokers is simply another way to castigate a behavior that has fallen out of favor.

#4 - "I won't date a smoker because they smell." Fine, don't date a smoker. Jerame is a non-smoker and while he originally was "fine with it," he also complains about the smell now. I have to say, if I were starting a new relationship, I'd choose a smoker just to avoid the constant put downs about odor. An old co-worker of mine used to complain that my hair would smell like smoke when I came back from a smoke break - until I pointed out that he could use a good "deodorant break" occasionally since his armpits would dampen during the work day and his BO would be strong. Suddenly he was offended I'd commented on his scent. What's the difference? "Your breath stinks" or "Your hair smells" is not a turn on, so I'd imagine that most smokers would also be perfectly willing to skip Lucrece (or Jerame) as partners too. As long as the smoker uses mints, or spritzes cologne/perfume or uses lotion, it should be recognized that they're trying to mask the odor; instead we get snide and/or rude comments like the one above.

I'm not trying to defend smoking - it's a dirty habit we should all quit for health reasons. We know that. But nasty judgmental attitudes and constant put-downs don't encourage - they just piss me off.

*climbs off his soapbox* :)

Oh, Bil, darling, you know I didn't mean to hurt you XOXO.

Just my opinion and experience with smokers I've come across. I'm sure there are very nice smokers and many dirty non-smokers. I couldn't lie about my experience in general, however.

I grew in a house where my cousin and aunt smoked, while we were in the car, and they rarely bothered to open the car windows for the kids, so obviously I'm bitter little queer with a wholeful bit of bias ;p.

Regan DuCasse | July 28, 2009 4:24 PM

It's always interesting to me when research breaks down pathological behaviors in a marginalized demographic.
That information can be used in several ways.

1. To educate the demographic and reduce health risks and risky behavior among that group.

2. The information can be used as a pathway towards rationalizing discrimination against that group.

3. The information can be distorted as a means to demonstrate examples of moral, physiological and intellectual weakness in that group. See #2.

This reminds me of the breast cancer research on lesbians that showed they were at higher risk for it.
And this is true.
But the anti gay spun this information in an irresponsible and fear mongering way. THEY said it was lesbianism that caused breast cancer.

The truth: NOT having children was the culprit. Lesbians have a lower pregnancy and birth rate. The ovaries stop producing a type of hormone during pregnancy, that gives the ovaries a rest. Without a break from this hormone, ALL women who'd never had children were at risk.
The remedy was much simpler than not being a lesbian. Depo-provera shots, two or three over a lifetime, produced the same ovarian resting period from the cancer inducing hormone as pregnancy.
Of course, the anti gay didn't mention this in their reports.

Smoking rates are highest among those who don't have children. Males or females. Gay or straight.
Women usually give it up during pregnancy, and prefer to not take it up again as they raise children.
Gays and lesbians are less likely to go through the child bearing or child raising period.

I wonder if the research included lesbians who smoke, but who also had borne children. These are more nuanced aspects of studying such trends.
I agree that lack of self esteem and a protective social community will lead ANY young person to destructive habits in their formative years. For obvious reasons, young gays and lesbians are more at risk of that isolation.

When studying young blacks, there are similar pathologies with regard to destructive behavior as well.
They also have higher smoking rates commiserate with that of gays and lesbians.
A serious researcher not invested in FURTHER social isolation of any minority would be honest about these important causations, as well as prevention.


The truth: NOT having children was the culprit. Lesbians have a lower pregnancy and birth rate. The ovaries stop producing a type of hormone during pregnancy, that gives the ovaries a rest. Without a break from this hormone, ALL women who'd never had children were at risk.

I hadn't thought of that one, but that's probably part of the issue. The reason my mom quit was because she was pregnant with my brother, and she wasn't motivated to restart.

Rick Sours | July 28, 2009 7:04 PM

My question is: What can we as members of the
LGBT community do to reduce the alarming trend
of smoking among our LGBT youth?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 29, 2009 4:26 AM

Gays drink more than heteros. I hate the word "straight" as it implies I am "bent."

Lucrece, stop taking everything so personally. Yeah, coming from me.

Bil, ditto, and I understand. Keep in mind that many Gay men smoke to avoid weight gain. What we might do is concentrate on the over emphasis on body image because that is a contributing factor here in why people start and keep smoking.

I have studied how cigarettes were originally marketed to women in the 1920's as the habit of smoking began when American and European GI's were given cigarettes during WWI. Women rarely smoked, but along came advertising about 1925:

"Trendy girls like to stay neat...

They reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet."

You are not a fool, second rate person, or harming anyone if you smoke with responsibility. I myself smoke from four to six cigarettes daily.