Smoking in the Lesbian Community:
Why do lesbians smoke? Okay, so that
may seem to be a question with an infinite number of answers,
but it is an important question to tackle when it comes to lesbian
and bisexual women's health. Whether one smokes for social reasons,
addiction, or to feel "more relaxed", smoking is not the best
way to reach one's 50th birthday.
Smoking in the LGBT community has recently
been a concern of medical professionals and researchers since
studies revealed LGBT people smoke more than the general population.
For example, research indicates the lesbians have a greater
tendency to smoke compared to heterosexual women.3
The following is what research has revealed on lesbian and bisexual
women's smoking habits:
- Lesbians experience high levels of
stress. (Populations that report high levels of stress tend to
also report higher levels of smoking).4
- Since the 1980ís evidence shows that
the tobacco industry has targeted gay and lesbians via marketing,
and promoting LGBT events.4
- Bars, commonly associated with
smoking, are often environments for gays and lesbians because they
are often discriminated against in other settings.4
- Smoking rates are higher in
adolescent and adult lesbians than the greater
- Research reported that the lesbians
and bisexuals under 50 were more likely than heterosexuals to
engage in cigarette smoking and heavy drinking.2
- Lesbians and bisexual women between
20-34 were reported to smoke and drink more on a weekly basis than
older lesbian and bisexual women. Therefore it was concluded that
lesbian and bisexual women between 20-34 were at greater risk for
smoking and drinking.2
In a report by Sarah Albert, it was
stated that while 80 percent of all adults tried to kick the habit,
75 percent of LGBT smokers stated they tried to stop. She also
explained the Harris survey reports that LGBT smokers are more aware
of the health risks associated with smoking than heterosexual smokers. Also, more LGBT smokers reported
that they believed smoking could increase chances of lung cancer,
heart disease, and could shorten their lives than heterosexual
To decrease the amount of smoking in
the lesbian community, more than education geared on hazardous
health conditions needs to be targeted. Since many lesbians know
that smoking can lead to poor health, we need to also pay close
attention to how cigarettes are advertised, how issues of homophobia
and other stressors may drive some to smoke, the role peer pressure
has among lesbian smokers, how smoking can is as a tool to socialize
(especially in the bar/club scene), and what satisfaction lesbian
and bisexual women receive from smoking. It is possible that if
these issues are better understood, outreach programs could be
created to prevent people from taking their first puff, or to help
those who want to kick the habit.
1 Albert, S. Lesbians and
Gays More Likely to Smoke, Survey Says.
from web site on 8/20/03.
2 Gruskin E.; Hart S,
Gordon N.; Ackerson L. Patterns of cigarette smoking and alcohol use
among lesbians and bisexual women enrolled in a large health
maintenance organization. Am J Public Health.
3 Hughes TL, Jacobson KM.
Sexual orientation and women's smoking. Curr Womens Health
Rep. Jun. 3(3):254-61, 2003.
4 Ryan, H; Wortley, P;
Easton, A; Pederson. L; and Greenwood, G. Smoking among lesbians,
gays, and bisexuals: a review of the literature. American
Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2001.