Tobacco is Killing the LGBT Community, Especially Bisexuals

Smoking is a major public health crisis. It is the number one cause of avoidable deaths in the United States, and over 400,000 Americans die annually as a result of smoking.

As discussed before on Change.org, smoking is also particularly common in the LGBT community. A new report by the American Lung Association, Smoking Out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community, suggests that bisexuals have higher smoking rates than any other group, including gay men, lesbians and transgender people.

While most state surveys did not collect data on bisexuals, those that did found smoking rates between 30 and 39.1 percent for bisexual men and women. In each state where data was collected on bisexual smoking rates, more bisexual men smoked than both homosexual and heterosexual men and more bisexual women smoked than both homosexual and heterosexual women.

So why is the smoking rate higher for bisexuals than for straight and gay people?

Many people use smoking as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. The social stigma and increased stress caused by coming out and prejudices against LGBT people are likely explanations for the higher smoking rate in the LGBT community. Study participants mentioned many stressful events that contributed to their smoking habit, including homelessness, coming out, rejection by family members and peers, lack of support, discrimination, anxiety, and homophobia.

Perhaps the higher smoking rate in the bisexual community in particular is indicative of higher levels of stress among bisexuals. Bisexuals often face prejudices both from society as a whole and from within the gay community.

The health of the LGBT population rests on cutting down these high smoking rates. In particular, data suggests that those in our population facing the most discrimination are likely to be disproportionately affected by smoking.

The LGBT community should not consider tobacco companies our allies just because they’ve provided financial support to some LGBT organizations. Tobacco industries are behind a health disparity that kills a staggering number of LGBT people each year.

Photo credit: gongus