This week, I had the opportunity to partake in a teleconference concerning tobacco use in the LGBT community. After the 30-minute session, what I had learned not only surprised me, but disturbed me on a level I can’t even begin to comprehend.
Chuck Connor, President of the American Lung Association, was joined by Bill Blatt, the Director of Tobacco Programs, and Gloria Soliz, facilitator for a program aptly called “The Last Drag.” They discussed findings that showed gay males were 2 times more likely to smoke than straight males. Even more disparaging was the fact that gay females were up to 2.5 times more likely to smoke than straight females. Bisexual men and women showed higher smoking rates than both straight and gay men and women.
These startling statistics can be credited to such factors as homophobia, social bonding, and lack of access to treatment. The tobacco industry has also contributed to the high rates, like taking out the majority of ad space in most gay and lesbian publications. Lack of attention from LGBT organizations as well as tobacco control organizations has only helped to spread the epidemic. Why?
“LGBT people are represented in every part of the American population, but are often misjudged as an invisible minority,” Soliz said.
So where do we as a community go from here? Action needs to be taken, of course, through such means as improved data collection and reporting on tobacco use within the LGBT community. Additionally, LGBT organizations should recognize tobacco use as a health priority.
Born in Panama City, FL and raised in Chattanooga, TN, Gary Neeley is an avid traveler who now calls Richmond, VA home. He is a former professional racer for SCCA, as well as a Navy veteran who served on the USS Annapolis, a submarine based out of Groton, CT. Find Gary on Facebook and read more articles at the Examiner.