A new report from the Legacy Foundation highlights the lack of structural support within the public health community to combat the disproportionately high rates of smoking among LGBT individuals. Despite the fact that members of the LGBT community are abouttwice as likely to smoke as their heterosexual counterparts — largely due to minority stress, but also because the tobacco industry hasspecifically targeted LGBT Americans in their marketing campaigns over the past decade — Legacy notes that mainstream anti-smoking campaigns still tend to lack adequate LGBT representation to ensure their messages are having an impact on that population.
And the LGBT community itself doesn’t have enough infrastructure and capacity to address issues of tobacco use either, partly because LGBT leaders often don’t cite smoking as a pressing health concern for the members of their community. But high rates of smoking — and the subsequent increased risks of asthma attacks, lung cancer, and heart disease — is putting a strain on the well-being of LGBT Americans. According to some estimates, tobacco use causes at least 30,000 gay and lesbian deaths each year (PDF).
“It’s very likely that smoking is the single greatest health issue stealing years off the lives of LGBT people,” Dr. Scout, the director of the Network for LGBT Health Equity, explains in video that Legacy produced to accompany the report. “More LGBT civil rights leaders’ voices have been silenced by tobacco disparities than any other single thing. For me, tobacco is one of the biggest social justice issues.” Read More