Will the Future of LGBTQ Youth Go Up in Smoke?
BY ERIN McCARRON
Lesbians and gay men may be able to look forward to marrying in several states — but they can also look forward to higher rates of smoking. Tobacco use remains the number one cause of preventable death, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in the United States continues to be disproportionately impacted by smoking.
People who identify as LGBTQ are up to 70 percent more likely to smoke, often turning to cigarettes to relieve stress caused by the risk of homelessness, bullying, poverty, discrimination, peer pressure and rejection by family and friends.
LGBTQ people must often confront homophobia and hostility in their daily lives, and that stress can lead to higher smoking rates. Among LGBTQ youth, smoking rates are estimated to be considerably higher than those among adolescents in general.
As the LGBT SmokeFree Project Coordinator at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, I work to educate and engage the LGBTQ community about the dangers of smoking. Additionally, I work with the Manhattan Smoke-Free Partnership to educate the community on tobacco control issues.
Big Tobacco is very aware of high smoking rates among sexual minorities, and their marketing exploits the LGBTQ community, particularly lesbian and gay youth. The tobacco industry targets gays and lesbians through advertising in LGBTQ publications, community promotions (such as LGBTQ bar nights featuring specific cigarette brands) and event sponsorships. As a community, we need to stand up to Big Tobacco and let them know that we’ve seen enough of tobacco marketing that normalizes smoking and works to lure LGBTQ youth into a lifetime of addiction.
Erin McCarron, LMSW is the LGBT SmokeFree Project Coordinator at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center (208 W. 13th St., btw. Seventh & Eight Aves.). For more information, visit gaycenter.org.