By Jordan Perry, Elon Staff

Hi friends. Guess what I recently learned? According to Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, self-identified LGBT* folks smoke at rates 35% to 200% higher than self identified non-LGBT folks.

Why does this matter? Well, as you probably know, tobacco use results in disease, disability, and death. In the US, tobacco kills more people each day than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, firearms, and illegal drugs – combined.

Why is this happening? Several reasons: in some areas (cough, cough, Elon!), LGBT folks have limited spaces to socialize openly with peers. Historically, “safe” spaces for LGBT folks to socialize openly have largely been bars. People smoke in bars. A lot. And even if you choose not to smoke personally, second hand smoke is dangerous, ya’ll. Luckily, in 2010, NC made all establishments (including bars) smoke-free. At least we’re doing something right in NC…

Higher rates of
smoking are also a result of marketing aimed directly at LGBT folks. Turns out that tobacco companies actually target their advertising in areas and media outlets frequented by LGBT folks. Those a$#holes! In addition, identifying as LGBT in the US can be stressful (you’re surprised, right?) because LGBT folks are subjected to discrimination, stress, and victimization. Discrimination, stress, and victimization are associated with higher rates of smoking.

So what do we do?

  • Recognize and resist the impact of marketing on our health choices.
  • If you or someone you know is interested in quitting, check out the NC Quitline.
    • Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW and you’ll be paired with your own Quit Coach who helps you quit. It’s a really cool, free resource.
    • If you aren’t interested in quitting now, consider cutting down. Even one less cigarette a day makes a difference.
    • Know that so-called “social smoking” is still smoking. Just like one less cigarette a day makes a difference, even smoking one cigarette a day is associated with health problems.
    • Find or create safe spaces to socialize that are substance free.
    • Support each other; social support reduces stress.

*From what I understand, researchers only surveyed LGBT folks, so we can’t say for sure if these results are also true for the Is, As, and the Qs. Oh, research.