Sexual minority young adults smoke at higher rates than their heterosexual peersOnline Only, Top Highlights Friday, May 31st, 2013
WASHINGTON — A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health analyzed nationally representative survey results and found that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) adults smoke cigarettes at rates that are nearly 70 percent higher than the general population. A new study from Legacy, a national public health nonprofit located in Washington, D.C., shows that LGB young adults ages 18-34 are also smoking at disproportionately high rates compared with their heterosexual counterparts. This is the first national survey measuring current tobacco use among young adults to ask about sexual identity. This study confirms higher rates of current tobacco use for homosexual young adults (35 percent) and bisexual young adults (31 percent) compared with heterosexual young adults (22 percent) in a nationally representative sample.
“Tobacco use patterns among LGB young adults are vital to understand because the majority of smokers start smoking by age 26,” said Jessica Rath, Ph.D., MPH, CHES, Director of Research at Legacy and lead researcher for the study. “Our study shows that efforts must continue to reach out to the LGB community early to spread messages about tobacco’s deadly toll so that everyone can be informed about the benefits of quitting smoking or never starting.”
This is the first nationally-representative study to address the relationship between tobacco use and sexual identity in the young adult population and was published online in Nicotine and Tobacco Research in May. The researchers analyzed data from the first wave of Legacy’s Young Adult Cohort Study collected during the summer of 2011. This longitudinal study harnesses a representative sample of over 4,000 young adults to understand tobacco use trajectories over time.
The study also found that:
- 35 percent of homosexuals and 27 percent of bisexuals smoked in the past 30 days compared to 18 percent of heterosexuals.
- The prevalence of dual use of cigarettes and other tobacco products was 30 percent among heterosexuals, 35 percent among bisexuals and 43 percent among homosexuals. Some of the other tobacco products that the study assesses include: large cigars, little cigars and cigarillos, pipe tobacco, hookah, chewing tobacco, dip/snuff, snus, electronic cigarettes, and dissolvable products.
This study highlights the need for surveillance on sexual orientation in national health surveys to improve the available information on disparities among sexual minorities and identify possible interventions to address these gaps. “The sexual minority community is already facing multiple challenges, including access to affordable healthcare, discrimination, substance abuse and mental illness. Adding insult to injury, this community will also suffer from disproportionate rates of disease and death if high rates of smoking continue,” said Cheryl G. Healton, DrPH, president and CEO at Legacy. “We must work hard to eliminate possibly the single biggest threat to LGBT health,” she added.
In June, LGBT Pride Month will acknowledge the struggles and accomplishments of all LGBT individuals. As LGBT individuals around the country “Embrace, Encourage, and Empower,” diversity, Legacy hopes to help the community to encourage quitting smoking as one way to empower change. Legacy is committed to raising awareness of the high prevalence of tobacco use within these communities and highlighting solutions to address it.
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