Queer Women Smoke More and Quit Less, Research Finds

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to smoke and less likely to quit than their heterosexual counterparts — especially queer women, new research has found.

While individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual smoke more, quit less, and respond more positively to tobacco marketing, new research has found that this is particularly true for queer women, especially those who identify as bisexual.

Previous research has shown that smoking is more prevalent among members of the LGBTQ+ community, but two new studies are the first to look at separate subsets within this population (gay men, bisexual men, lesbian/gay women, and bisexual women) rather than treating them as a monolithic group.

Conducted by researchers at Rutgers Health, the studies analyzed cigarette use and quitting tendencies, as well as receptivity to tobacco advertising among different sexual identities.

The first study, published in Annals of LGBTQ Public and Population Health, examined differences in receptivity to advertising of five tobacco product categories (any tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco) between straight/heterosexual and LGB young adults by sex.

It found that lesbian/gay and bisexual women were more likely to be receptive to marketing for tobacco products overall compared with heterosexual women, and that bisexual women specifically were more likely to be receptive to marketing for cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco.

The study also found that gay men, but not bisexual men, were more likely to be receptive to cigar advertising compared with heterosexual men, while gay and bisexual men were more likely to be receptive to e-cigarette advertising compared with heterosexual men.

The second study, published in Preventive Medicine Reports, focused on associations between sexual identity and cigarette smoking measures (i.e., former smoking, lifetime smoking, current smoking, current daily smoking, nicotine dependence) by sex.

It revealed that women who identify as a sexual minority are smoking more and struggling to quit more compared with heterosexual women, a trend that is particularly pronounced among bisexual women. The differences in cigarette smoking between lesbian/gay women, bisexual women, and heterosexual women were found to be far greater than between sexual minority men and heterosexual men.

“These findings show that we need more support to specifically help sexual minority women quit smoking — particularly bisexual women,” said Ollie Ganz of the Rutgers Institute for Nicotine and Tobacco Studies who is the lead author of both studies, in a news release. “This population presents unique challenges, such as greater mental health problems, and there is a need for more resources and tailored interventions to support them in quitting smoking.”


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