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LGBT+ people are 46% more likely to smoke and new research explains why

LGBT+ people are 46% more likely to smoke and new research explains why

  • TV’s Doctor Christian Jessen says LGBT+ smokers are self-medicating with nicotine due to poor mental health.
Man with smoke.

A new report has confirmed that LGBT+ people are almost 46% more likely to smoke cigarettes than others.

And it reveals that 72% of the LGBT+ community in Britain either used to smoke or still smokes – regularly or sometimes.

New LGBT+ social enterprise Queer Voices Heard wrote the report. Tobacco company Philip Morris has funded the research but Queer Voices Heard maintained editorial independence.

The new social enterprise was inspired to write the report by work GSN did in 2019 to highlight the high level of smoking in the LGBT+ community. Despite it being a major health issue for our community, it has previously received little attention.

LGBT+ people self-medicating by smoking

Gay British TV doctor Dr Christian Jessen, a popular health campaigner, authored the report’s foreword.

He says our community’s poorer mental health means people are ‘self medicating’ with nicotine and other substances.

He said: ‘We know that those who identify as LGBT+ are much more likely to smoke cigarettes than the general population.

‘But until this report was compiled there has been a lack of research into why this is the case, what can be done to provide much needed support, and who needs to be part of the conversation.

‘This report suggests that many LGBT+ people start smoking in similar circumstances to the general population. But it highlights that smokers in the LGBT+ community have many more triggers to sustain smoking than there are triggers to stop.

‘The reasons for this are complex. But considering that members of the LGBT+ community are more prone to stress, anxiety and generally poorer mental health and depression, self-medication using nicotine or other substances is commonplace and unsurprising.’

Being LGBT+ keeps people smoking

The researchers examined whether being LGBT+ makes people more likely to smoke. They found there wasn’t evidence for that. But LGBT+ people’s gender or sexual identity does make them more likely to keep smoking.

And the report argues there is a ‘culture of acceptance’ of smoking. Furthermore, it says that smoking gives a ‘sense of belonging’ to some in the LGBT+ community.

Meanwhile, support and campaigns to stop smoking don’t tend to target or cater well for LGBT+ people.

The new research shows half of LGBT+ smokers agree that smoking plays a significant part in our community. And 31% of LGBT+ smokers see smoking as a rebellious act that helps enforce their LGBTQ+ identity.

Moreover nearly half (48%) of LGBT+ smokers do not see smoking cessation campaigns that target or relate to them. And 73% feel that health campaigns for the community seem to only focus on sexual health.

Other report highlights show:

  • 74% of LGBT+ people recognise that cigarettes are harmful to their physical health.
  • 41% say cigarettes are harmful to their mental health.
  • Gay, bi and trans men are more likely to be smokers while lesbian, bi and trans women are more likely to be casual smokers.
  • Over a third (34%) of current LGBT+ smokers in the research hide the fact they smoke on their social media accounts.
  • 28% of LGBT+ smokers fear being rejected if they reveal their habit too early to people they want to date.

40% of LGBT+ smokers want to quit in the next six months

However, the research also shows that LGBT+ smokers are keen to give up.

It found 86% of respondents who were casual or regular smokers stated they want to quit. And 40% of those want to quit in the next six months.

Stu Hosker, co-founder of Queer Voices Heard, said:

‘The fact that smoking as a health issue disproportionately affects queer people is not new information.

Public bodies and charities have long documented that smoking rates are higher in the LGBTQ+ community when compared to the general population.

‘But highlighting prevalence is where the conversation typically ends. Very little has been done to move the conversation on. To ask the question, “why”?

‘This report, the first insight published by Queer Voices Heard, aims to move that conversation forward. To listen to the voices of those in our community who have been affected by smoking, and to start a meaningful conversation about how we can reduce this health inequality.’