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Smoking rates in the LGBT community

In the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities, there are smoking rates of almost 70% higher than the general population. This translates to roughly 20% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults who smoke, and transgender adults report higher rates at roughly 35%.

In an article published in 2018, it was found that in the US, 13.7% of all adults, those above the age of 18, claimed to smoke cigarettes.  This translates to roughly about 34 million people that smoke.  Breaking down further into the demographics, this transition into about 15.6% of men, and 12%of women.  Some other key demographics we can look at are mixed heritage, non-Hispanics (19.1%), non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives (22.6%), non-Hispanic blacks 14.6%), non-Hispanic whites (15%), Hispanics (9,8%), non-Hispanic Asians (7.1%).  These self-identified smokers participated in a survey reporting that they had smoked at least 100 cigarettes during their lifetime and that as of the date of the survey, had reported having smoked frequently, with some smoking everyday.

In addition to these numbers showing the statistics for adult smokers, thousands of young people start smoking every day.  The number of those younger than 18 years old smoking their first cigarette is about 2,000 each day.  And each day, over 300 people younger than 18 years old transition into becoming daily cigarette smokers

LGBT Community

As daunting as all these numbers are, they pale in comparison to the numbers surrounding the smoking population of the LGBT community.  In America, approximately 1 in 5 people are smoking.  In the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered communities, there are smoking rates of almost 70% higher than the general population.  This translates to roughly 20% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults who smoke, and transgender adults report higher rates at roughly 35%.  This is supplemented by startling fact that LGBT young adults, those that fall within the age range between 18-24, are nearly twice as likely to start smoking as their straight peers.  The statistics show that even though youth smoking rates are down overall by approximately 6%, smoking rates of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths are considerably higher than the general youth.  LGB youths in highschool have reported twice as likely to have smoked a cigarette before the age of 13.  Lesbian and bisexual girls are even more susceptible, over 9 times more likely to smoke regularly compared to their heterosexual peers. 


Now if we were to examine these numbers, we see a clear difference between certain groups.  Within the LGBT community, like other high percentage groups, there may be struggles that they have to deal with specific to them and that other groups don’t have to worry about.  The prevalence of smoking other types of tobacco products, as can be seen at, including water pipes and cigars, cigarillos, or small cigars is also higher for LGBT adults compared to heterosexual adults. 

With the LGBT community, there are disparities that originate from social stigma and acts of discrimination.  Problems and issues that are rooted in mental and social/societal aspects, such as anxiety due to acceptance, discrimination, self-esteem issues, etc. can lead and push people towards negative behaviors as well as make it harder to escape and quit these negative habits.  This can create a never ending cycle of toxic behavior.

LGBT smokers are significantly more likely to smoke menthol cigarettes, with more than 36% of LGBT smokers reporting that they more often smoke menthols, which are easier to use and harder to quit.  Bisexual women are approximately 3.5 times more likely to start smoking at a younger age and have a higher nicotine dependence than heterosexual women.

Tailored Ads

Another factor that may be contributing to such high rates of tobacco consumption is the tobacco industry’s long standing history of marketing towards the LGBT community, knowing the high smoking rates within the group and pushing more marketing plans toward the LGBT market as one of high growth potential.  Tobacco companies took onto philanthropy as they aided and supported in the objectives of the LGBT community to gain their support.  Eventually, in the 1990s, tobacco companies then began marketing directly to the community as they showed their products as being a normal part of the LGBT lifestyle with targeted ads doing things like glamorizing smoking, or creating articles that had nothing to do with smoking but having images of tobacco in them.  It is with this targeted advertisements that may have caused or in the very least contributed to this uptick of smokers within the demographic.

The statistics show a noticeable disproportion of smokers within the LGBT community from other demographic groups.  The reasoning can come from a variety of reasons that, on their own may not accumulate to much of a difference, but as a whole, and dealing with a cumulative variety of contributing factors, create this large gap.  

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Your "not that regular" all-around gal, writing about anything, thus everything. "There's always more to discover... thus write about," she says in between - GASP! - puffs. And so that's what she does, exactly. Write, of course; not (just) puff.


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