New Focus on Smoking Among Gay Youth

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Ohio has become the latest state to increase its focus on smoking by gay youth, whose smoking rate is about double that of heterosexual teens.

Ohio’s Department of Health said last month that it will use $60,000 of a federal grant to study the smoking habits of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teenagers and to develop a tobacco-prevention campaign for them. The Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender Community Youth and Young Adults Anti-Tobacco Social Marketing Project will form focus groups among youth ages 12 to 20 at an LGBT center in Columbus.

The money is part of a $1.6 million chronic disease and health promotion grant, focused on tobacco prevention, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to Ohio Department of Health spokesman Kristopher Weiss.

Teenagers who are questioning their sexuality are more susceptible to nicotine addiction as a coping method, said James Beaudreau, an education and policy associate at the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

“In general, lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual teens have higher rates in substance abuse due to the social stigma and homophobia they face,” Beaudreau said.

Ohio is part of a growing national effort to discourage LGBT youth from lighting up. As of August 2006, about 20 states were addressing the problem, according to an evaluation by the National LGBT Tobacco Control Network, a Boston-based nonprofit.

Gay and lesbian adults also have smoking rates that are nearly double that of heterosexual adults, according to a November 2007 study conducted in California by the Riverside County Department of Public Health. Some grassroots initiatives have also taken up the LGBT anti-smoking cause through such activities as “The Last Drag,” a series of free courses to help smokers quit.

Contact: National LGBT Tobacco Control Network (617) 927-6451,; Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (415) 255-4547,