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Lesbian, gay and bisexual women smoke more, are less likely to quit

People who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual – particularly women – respond more positively to tobacco marketing, are more inclined to smoke cigarettes daily and may have a more difficult time quitting.

Photo by Louis Hansel from Unsplash.com

People who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual – particularly women – respond more positively to tobacco marketing, are more inclined to smoke cigarettes daily and may have a more difficult time quitting.

This is according to two studies involving Ollie Ganz, a Rutgers Health researcher, that were published in the Annals of LGBTQ Public and Population Health and Preventive Medicine Reports.

The first study – “Differences in Tobacco Advertising Receptivity Among Young Adults by Sexual Identity and Sex: Findings From the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study”, which was done with Evan A. Krueger, Andy S.L. Tan, Eugene Talbot, Christine D. Delnevo and Jennifer Cantrell – examined differences in receptivity to advertising of five tobacco product categories (any tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco) between straight/heterosexual and LGB young adults by sex. Using data from Wave 1 of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study Restricted Use File, analyses were limited to young adults (aged 18–24) with complete data on sexual identity (n = 8,839). Multivariable logistic regressions examined the association between receptivity and sexual identity, controlling for demographics, past 30-day tobacco use, and media use, stratified by sex.

  • This study found:
  • In the multivariable models, gay males had higher odds of receptivity to cigar advertising and gay and bisexual males had higher odds of receptivity to e-cigarette advertising, compared with straight/heterosexual males.
  • Compared with straight/heterosexual females, bisexual females had higher odds of receptivity to advertising for all products; lesbian/gay females had higher odds of receptivity to any tobacco advertising.

Specifically, this “study identified elevated receptivity to tobacco marketing among sexual minorities—particularly sexual minority women”, so that “more research is needed to understand the sources of exposure to tobacco advertising and the reasons for elevated receptivity among LGB individuals.”

“What was unique about our study is that we were able to look at subsets of the LGB population – gay men, bisexual men, lesbian/gay women and bisexual women – rather than looking at them as one group. By looking at these subgroups we discovered that lesbian/gay and bisexual women were more likely to be receptive to marketing for tobacco products overall, and that bisexual women – but not lesbian/gay women – were more likely to be receptive to marketing for cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, compared with heterosexual women,” Ganz said.  

The second study – “Cigarette smoking behaviors and nicotine dependence at the intersection of sexual identity and sex in the United States: Findings from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health”, which was done with Jonathan A. Schulz, Sarah J. Ehlke, Jessica L. King Jensen and Andrea C. Villanti – used data from the 2015–2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (n = 210,392) to examine: bivariate and multivariable associations between sexual identity and cigarette smoking measures (i.e. former smoking, lifetime smoking, current smoking, current daily smoking, nicotine dependence) by sex; as well as linear time trends in current and former smoking.

  • This study found:
  • Bisexual women had the highest unadjusted prevalence of current smoking (31 %) and lowest of former smoking (25 %).
  • LGB females and males had higher adjusted prevalence of current smoking, daily smoking, and nicotine dependence than heterosexual adults.
  • Bisexual females and gay and bisexual males had lower adjusted prevalence of former smoking (adjusted prevalence ratio range: 0.78–0.85) than heterosexual counterparts.

For the researchers, “tobacco control interventions targeted toward bisexual females are urgently needed to reduce the burden of cigarette smoking among these individuals.”

As Ganz stressed: “We need more support to specifically help sexual minority women quit smoking – particularly bisexual women. This population presents unique challenges, such as greater mental health problems, and there is a need for more resources and tailored interventions to support them in quitting smoking.”

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