Talking Points for CDC Release of 1st National LGBT Adult Tobacco Prevalence Rates


Scout, Ph.D.
Director, The Fenway Institute’s Network for LGBT Health Equity

At 4 pm today, the American Journal of Public Health will release “Current Tobacco Use Among Adults in the United States: Findings From the National Adult Tobacco Survey”. This article is historic for LGBT people because (following our urging) they collected data on us! We hope to see data like these come out more regularly in the future because this really will signal the end of the era of cobbling together data from smaller surveys for this key health measure.

The Network will be releasing our own press release on this at 4 pm, we also urge local LGBT tobacco control programs to put out their own press release. Below are talking points people are welcome to use to help frame the import of this announcement.

Why is this announcement historic?

  • first release of national LGBT adult tobacco use data
  • prior to this anyone trying to prove LGBT tobacco disparity had to cobble together data from local and regional surveys or use same-sex household as a proxy for LGBT
  • also historic because unlike some surveys, these data include transgender people
  • also historic because we will not only get cigarette use data, but first ever national data on other tobacco use by LGBT people
  • once HHS adds LGBT measures to the National Health Interview Survey, we’ll start to see data like these roll out for a wide variety of health issues

General background on LGBT tobacco use

  • Data from past surveys over decades shows a consistent trend, LGBT people smoke at rates from 35% to almost 200% higher than the general population
  • It is virtually assured that tobacco is the single largest health burden in the LGBT communities. Yet, our substantive health infrastructure only rarely includes tobacco control activities.
  • The LGBT population generally has a low level of awareness that we have a tobacco health disparity, many of us are actually grateful to the tobacco industry for early sponsorship of our community events and publications.
  • With the increased evidence of the impact of secondhand smoke, it is very likely this higher smoking rate affects the health of LGBT people even who do not smoke themselves.
  • The lack of data collection on most federal and state surveys has left grantwriters at a disadvantage to justify LGBT inclusion in general tobacco control programs, resulting in very sporadic inclusion, keeping the health disparity unchecked.
  • Targeted tobacco industry work helped create this health disparity, we must use targeted work to eliminate it.
  • LGBT people have such a strong history of discrimination in the health care environment that for many LGBT people a program such as a quitline may not be perceieved as safe and welcoming until they visibly demonstrate they are safe and welcoming to all LGBT people. (There are many easy strategies to do so.)
  • There are still almost no data on the many deleterious health outcomes of this higher smoking rate, for example, it’s almost impossible for LGBT people NOT to have higher cancer rates, yet we have no data to prove our higher cancer rates yet, which again leaves people applying for grants in this area at a distinct disadvantage.

What do these (forthcoming) data convey?

  • The magnitude of this health problem for the LGBT communities
  • The deleterious effect of tobacco targeting to the LGBT communities
  • The impact of stigma on our health
  • The value in adding LGBT data collection to federal and state surveillance instruments
  • The heightened importance for also collecting health outcome data such as cancer rates, COPD rates, emphysema rates, etc.
  • The importance of routinely integrating LGBT tailored strategies into all state and federal tobacco control programs, such as tailored quitline ads, routine cultural competency trainings, and especially direct funding of LGBT community based tobacco control programs.
  • The importance of local LGBT tobacco control programs
  • The importance of the resources the Network for LGBT Health Equity provides to assist states and localities integrate LGBT work into their activities.
  • The heightened need to routinely integrate LGBT tailored strategies into Community Transformation Grant work
  • The need to integrate tobacco control strategies into all LGBT health activities, such as by making it a vital statistic on health charts or running cessation groups at community centers.

What can you do?

  • If you have an LGBT friend who smokes, talk to them about how you can be a supporter in a quit attempt
  • Advocate for your state/locality to collect LGBT data
  • Advocate for your state/locality to include tailored LGBT work in their tobacco control activities
  • Advocate for your state/locality to include tailored LGBT work in their Community Transformation Grant/wellness activities
  • Urge your local LGBT pride to go smokefee
  • Urge your local LGBT media outlet to do a story on tobacco impact in our communities and/or stop taking tobacco ads
  • Support your local LGBT tobacco control project
  • Volunteer with groups such as American Lung Assoc, American Cancer Society, or American’s for Nonsmokers Rights to pass local policies banning smoking in public places
  • Follow the Network for LGBT Health Equity on this blog or on Twitter or like us on Facebook for more information on how and when to speak up about this issue.

Published by Dr. Scout

Vegetarian biking small town transgender father of 3 feisty teens in real life, Director of Network for LGBT Health Equity in pro life.

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