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LGBT and Smoking

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans are roughly two times more likely to take up smoking as straight Americans. Although their reasons for smoking may be similar, LGBT Americans are also dealing with other issues. Here are few reasons why LGBT persons in the United States smoke and some strategies to break the cycle:

Marketing to LGBT

The LGBT community has been targeted by tobacco companies through sponsored events, ads, bar promotions, and giveaways. This could be one reason why smoking is often a part of the LGBT identity.

Tip: Don't let the tobacco companies mislead you. Take action and join a positive movement, not a negative one (like smoking). Check out the It Gets Better Project and empower yourself and the LGBT community.

Stress Relief

Stress is a big reason why people smoke. People who are LGBT might have to deal with extra stress (like discrimination, the stress of coming out, unsupportive relatives and friends, depression, loneliness, or being bullied because of sexual orientation) on top of regular daily drama. Many LGBTs use smoking as a way to deal with this extra stress. But smoking is just a temporary solution. Smoking cannot erase these problems, and it will bring on more issues related to smoking (like unwanted health problems).

Tip: Instead of focusing on your problems, figure out how to be a part of the solution. Channel stress into positive activities that help the LGBT community. If you are in high school, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network has local and national events you can get involved with. If you need a LGBT quit smoking community, try the National LBGT Tobacco Control Network to get started.

Expressing Yourself

Many LGBT persons struggle with their sexual orientation and identity, especially when they are young. They may take up smoking as a way to try out a new identity, thinking that cigarettes make them seem more confident or that they are making a statement by smoking. Regardless, smoking doesn't have to define who you are as a person. There are plenty of ways to express yourself that don't cause the permanent damage that smoking will to your body.

Tip: Choose activities that make a statement about what's most important to you and your values. For example, if it's important for you to show confidence, try doing it through your clothes or posture. Self-expression can also mean opening up to friends through your blog, artwork, or music.

Fitting In

Many people (LGBT and straight) smoke as a way to socialize and be accepted by friends. This may be especially true if you spend a lot of time hanging out in places where smoking is common, like bars or clubs. But smoking is a superficial way to fit in. Dig deeper; you have much more to offer.

Tip: Re-introduce yourself to friends you think you only have smoking in common with. If you find you have little in common besides smoking, it's probably time to join a group with people who truly share similar interests.

If you or someone you know would like more information on LGBT resources, visit http://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/links.htm.

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