Is that Smoke I Smell?
August 19, 2006, 3:30 pm
Filed under: gay and lesbian

Apparently, yes. A recently study by the California Department of Health suggestests more than 30 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people smoke. And rates are highest in the lesbian community where nearly 50 percent between the ages of 18-24 smoke.

Here are the theories as to why:

1. “There’s a theory that smoking truly is a part of gay identity, whether that be a prop for a drag queen or a cigar for a woman who’s part of the Women’s Motorcycle Contingent,” said Bob Gordon, director of the California LGBT Tobacco Education Partnership in San Francisco. “Perhaps smoking signals ‘queer,’ that I’m different from the mainstream.”

2. The media influence also is an important factor, said Ruth Malone, a UCSF medical sociologist who has studied tobacco-industry advertising targeted at gays and lesbians. She said it’s worrisome how embedded cigarettes are in gay media.

“What we found was that the images of smoking were just ubiquitous in the gay press. They appeared in illustrations with articles that had nothing to do with tobacco. Tobacco appeared in ads that had nothing to do with tobacco products,” Malone said.

3. Dr. Elizabeth Gruskin, a Kaiser Permanente researcher who studies tobacco and substance abuse among gays and lesbians, conducted a survey last year on why smoking is prevalent in the community. She hopes to publish the results sometime next year.

“It doesn’t seem like the issues are different than with straight people, so maybe they’re just more intense,” Gruskin said. “If you said you smoke because of job stress, well, for an LGBT person, stresses can include ‘Do I come out at the office?’ and ‘Am I going to get fired if they find out I’m gay?’ There’s sort of an added layer for LGBT people.”

4. “Gay people probably smoke longer because we’re not as family-oriented. If you don’t have kids and raise a family, you don’t need to stop,” said John Daly, 41, who has smoked for 25 years. “We don’t have the same responsibilities. We can be reckless a little longer.”

What’s your theory?


1 Comment so far
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stress, insecurity, wanting to look cool. For lesbians, smoking reads as cool, hip, independent, deep.

Comment by pabe

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