FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on Tobacco & Health released today shows the health impact of tobacco is even larger than previously known. In conjunction with this release CenterLink’s Network for LGBT Health Equity has released information about the effect of 50 years of smoking on the LGBT communities.
With the advent of data from the National Adult Tobacco Survey, the Network for LGBT Health Equity has been able to model the estimated money that U.S. LGBT communities spend on cigarettes every year. After factoring in LGBT prevalence and smoking rates, the Network reports that LGBT communities spent $7.9 billion dollars per year on their top health burden: smoking. This is 65 times as much money as the Funders for LGBTQ Issues report all foundations spend on LGBT funding.
“It’s a brutal truth,” says the Network’s Director, Dr. Scout. “We’re spending more on something that kills us than everyone else is spending to help us.”
LGBT smoking disparities have been documented with a series of studies over several decades, but the 2012 National Adult Tobacco Survey marked the first time that a national surveillance instrument reported LGBT smoking prevalence. In that survey, 32.8% of LGBT respondents indicated that they smoked, versus 19.5% of other respondents.
“LGBT people smoke at rates that are 68% higher than the general population,” notes Dr. Scout, “and the 50 years of Surgeon General’s reports just show us how effectively lethal tobacco is.”
“LGBT communities have an excellent health infrastructure, but when you ask our leaders about our top health issues, smoking is rarely even in the list. It really is time for smoking to come out of the closet as the top issue health issue affecting LGBT people today” says Dr. Scout.
The 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report is only the third of 32 to mention LGB and/or T disparities, but work across the government and states shows increasing focus on LGBT tobacco disparities over recent years. The nation’s largest anti-smoking advocacy group, American Legacy Foundation, has included LGBT people in their funding for priority populations for many years. Last year the FDA made a considerable award to Rescue Social Change, a behavior change marketing group, to develop marketing materials aimed at LGBT youth. CDC has funded a LGBT tobacco disparity network for over a decade, recently expanding the focus of the network to include cancer as well.
“LGBT people, people of color, the poor; tobacco preys on stigma and too often we pay with our lives.” says Dr. Phoenix Matthews, a tobacco researcher at University of Illinois at Chicago and Network member. “I hope this number shocks people enough so we start building tobacco control into all of our communities’ health programs.”
“It’s time for the tobacco communities to include LGBT in everything they do, and it’s time for the LGBT communities to include tobacco in everything we do as well,” says Dr. Francisco Buchting, a LGBT funder and past Network Steering Committee President. “The great news about smoking is there’s a cure,” concludes Dr. Scout.