New research suggests that smoking is more common in the gay community than in the general population, but scientists are calling for more research to document this difference.
Women and men in California's general population were less likely to be smokers than a sample of Californians who identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB), according to a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Researchers compared results from a 2003-2004 tobacco use survey of 1,950 self-identified gay, lesbian or bisexual residents with a general population survey from 2002.
"It is important to know the prevalence and reasons for smoking because we would like to have tailored prevention and cessation interventions that are appropriate for LGBs," lead researcher Elisabeth Gruskin said.
"For example, if stress is a huge issue, then you would want stress management as part of an intervention. If glamour is a big reason, you want to contradict that in the media."
Twelve percent of women in the general population were current smokers compared to approximately 29 percent of lesbians and nearly 27 percent of bisexual women, according to Gruskin, a scientist in the research division of Kaiser Permanente Northern California.
Among women who have sex with women but do not identify themselves as lesbian or bisexual, 44 percent were smokers.Among men, 20 percent in the general population smoked, compared to about 27 percent of gay men.
The authors said their work is "the first statewide, household-based study of the LGB population ... to assess all of the basic indicators of tobacco use" and compare outcomes with those in the general population.
Activists are already aware of the issue. The National LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Tobacco Control Network is attempting to spotlight the problem.
"We've gotten the main population's smoking rates down low," the organization network's director, Scout said. "In order to get lower, we're going to work on pockets of the community. LGBTs are one of those groups."