Hormone replacement therapy, HIV/AIDS treatments at risk
If there’s one New Year’s resolution health officials ask of the LGBT community, it’s to stop smoking.
“There are long-standing disparities in cigarette smoking and overall tobacco use by sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Brian King, deputy director for research translation in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Office on Smoking and Health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of lesbian, gay or bisexual people who smoke is 6 percent higher than those outside of the community who smoke.
Nearly 21 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals smoke – there is no reliable data yet for transgender persons – compared to about 15 percent of heterosexual adults, King said. When those numbers are expanded to include other tobacco products, the disparities rise even more. Thirty-two percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual people use tobacco products compared to 21 percent of heterosexual adults, King said.
Bill Blatt, national director of tobacco programs for the American Lung Association, added that smoking rates for gay men and lesbians are 2 and 1 percent higher than heterosexual men and women, respectively.
Higher rates of smoking and tobacco use also indicate higher mortality rates. King said estimates are in the tens of thousands as to numbers of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals who die each year from smoking-related causes.
In addition to the more commonly known cancers, heart and lung disease that smoking can lead to, there are health risks LGBT individuals are especially susceptible to.
Nicotine, the main addictive element in cigarettes, can interfere with hormone replacement therapy by reducing circulated estrogen levels. Chemicals in cigarettes can also complicate HIV and AIDS treatments, King said. This puts individuals with HIV at risk of being further immunocompromised and susceptible to things like thrush.
“There’s a lot of different factors that are likely to have contributed to these marked disparities,” King said. “We know that tobacco disparities are likely a result of stressors that could include internalized homophobia. Another is targeted marketing toward the LGBT community.”
He said the tobacco industry has a “profound history” of targeting certain populations, including heavy product marketing in gay bars. Combined with the increased mental and social stressors faced by members of the LGBT community, they create a “perfect storm that has led to elevated tobacco use.”
By DALLAS DUNCAN