Bisexuals. While LBGs are more likely to smoke than heteros (up to 2.5X more for men, and 2X for women), bisexuals outspace even lesbians; they’re 1.2X more likely to smoke than gay women, an already at-risk group, according to the American Lung Association’s new report “Smoking Out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community” (PDF), a meta-study that analyzed the data of existing tobacco research. Sadly, nationwide data on transgender smokers is either nonexistent or too paltry to sufficiently measure. So what can be done? Involving LGBT leaders, perhaps?
The study concludes, “Despite the impact of tobacco use on the health and well-being of the LGBT community, many LGBT organizations do not seem to view tobacco control as a relevant issue. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco interviewed the leaders of 74 LGBT organizations between 2002 and 2004. These interviews were recorded, reviewed and coded to identify major themes. Only 24 percent of the leaders surveyed named tobacco use as a pressing LGBT community health concern. The rest indicated that other issues were more important or that their organizations should focus on issues that weren’t being addressed by the general population. Some of those interviewed said that drinking and smoking were central to many people’s coming out process. This is an unfortunate indication of the degree to which tobacco use has been normalized in a community beset by the challenges of functioning in a homophobic society.”
And why might some LGBT groups not be taking such a hard line approach to smoking? “While these leaders recognized that smoking is dangerous to one’s health, some noted that combating smoking could be bad for an organization’s bank account. Twenty-two percent of the organizations surveyed had accepted tobacco industry funding. The leaders of those groups recognized that these donations were ideologically difficult to defend, but felt they were necessary to keep their programs solvent and ‘continue their work in the community.’ Even those groups that had not accepted tobacco industry funding in the past said they might do so under the right circumstances, such as including a no-smoking message for youth as part of the funded activity.”
Then there’s the small matter of tolerance from groups like the Human Rights Campaign, which doesn’t accept cash from tobacco companies, but will give them props.
HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, which ranks the queer-friendliness of America’s companies, granted a 100% score to Reynolds Tobacco Co., a company whose profits are harming the very people HRC claims to advocate for. In defending the company’s score last year, HRC Foundation Workplace Project director Daryl Herrschaft said, “HRC does not accept sponsorship dollars from tobacco companies because we recognize the harmful effects that tobacco has done, and in some ways its disproportionate effect on our community … We don’t want to play a role in advocating smoking to our membership and to people who come to our events. The Corporate Equality Index addresses only corporate policies that impact LGBT people. It also addresses external actions of the company that directly and primarily impact LGBT equality. The Corporate Equality Index is only one measure of policies for LGBT employees and we strongly encourage everyone to seek out and pay attention to other indicators that are important to them.”