The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday launched an anti-smoking campaign targeting the LGBT community. The county is launching the campaign because state data show that across California, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals smoke at twice the rate of the heterosexual population. The gap is not quite as large in L.A. County, but it is still significant: one in five gays, lesbians and bisexuals smokes in the county, compared with about one in seven heterosexuals, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Bill Blatt is director of Tobacco Programs at the American Lung Association. He argues that "the LGBT community has been targeted by the tobacco industry." Blatt claims that there are many more cigarette ads in gay magazines and newspapers than in other publications.
There are special factors at play, says Blatt. For example, he says many gay people smoke to cope with the stress of discrimination. Over time, Blatt says, smoking has become normalized within the gay community.
But anti-smoking campaigns have only recently started catching on to the need to address the gay community directly, says Blatt. He says that traditionally, campaigns have featured "wealthy, white, opposite sex couples." Advertising that features same-sex couples, perhaps of different races, will have a much stronger impact in the LGBT community, Blatt argues.
The Department of Public Health’s campaign is called "Break Up With Tobacco." It will send street teams into West Hollywood to talk to people in clubs and gyms. The campaign will also spread its message on billboards and through social media.
Here are statistics from the June 2013 report by the California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program:
- California lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGB)* smoke at more than twice the rate (27.4 percent) of heterosexual California adults (12.9 percent).
- Gay men’s smoking prevalence (25.8 percent) is more than 50 percent higher than heterosexual men (16.0 percent).
- Lesbians’ smoking prevalence (24.4 percent) is two-and-a-half times higher than heterosexual women (9.8 percent).
- Almost one-third (30.8 percent) of bisexual men and women smoke.
In addition, the report showed that the LGB population in California has a higher exposure rate to secondhand smoke, which can cause lung cancer and coronary heart disease in non-smokers:
- Almost 40 percent of LGBs report exposure to other people’s tobacco smoke at places other than their homes and work-places, compared with 31.6 percent of heterosexuals.
- More than 40 percent of LGBs sometimes allow smoking in their homes, compared with only 23.4 percent of heterosexuals.
* The state did not collect data on individuals' transgender status.
According to the most recent Los Angeles County Health Survey (2011):
- The L.A. County LGB adult populations smoke at a rate 55% higher than heterosexual adults (20.6 percent v. 13.3 percent).
- The L.A. County bisexual adult population smokes at nearly twice the rate of heterosexual adults (25.1 percent v. 13.3 percent).