Today Marks the Beginning of LGBT Health Awareness Week

19238-57719It’s the 10th Annual LGBT Health Awareness Week (March 25-March 29, 2013)!  This week promotes the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender individuals and other sexual and gender minorities.  Many organizations around the country are encouraging the community to take a deeper look at tobacco use and quit smoking.

There is a higher prevalence of smoking in the LGBT community. According to a report released by the National LGBT Tobacco Control Network and the Fenway Institute in 2005, LGBT individuals are 40-70 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes than non-LGBT individuals. The same report attributes the increased use within the community to “higher levels of social stress, frequent patronage of bars and clubs, higher rates of alcohol and drug use, and direct targeting of LGBT consumers by the tobacco industry.”  A local survey conducted by the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative in 2011 found that 26.2% of the sample reported smoking cigarettes everyday or some days, but nearly half of the sample (46.4%) had smoked more than 5 packs in their life. Additionally, about 1 in 5 smokers in this study reported an attempt at quitting smoking in the last 12 months.

LGBT adolescents are also of particular concern. A recent national study found that 35 percent of adolescent males and 45 percent of adolescent females who reported same-sex attraction or behavior smoked, compared with 29 percent of non-LGBT adolescents. In a 2007 study of LGBT youth, those who smoked told researchers they believe cigarettes add to a facade of toughness that decreases bullying and also act as easy ice breakers.

National LGBT Health Week is organized by the National Coalition for LGBT Health. This year’s campaign, titled “Come Out For Health,” focuses on four core principles: empowering consumers to approach their health care providers concerning their sexual orientation and gender identity; directing their providers on how to be culturally competent and sensitive to the needs of the LGBT community; creating inclusive policy making by getting people involved with government; and reaching out to a variety of communities to raise awareness about the health needs of the LGBT individuals.

For more information or to request a presentation on LGBT tobacco use and prevention initiatives in Douglas County, please contact Diana Rogel-Mendoza at (402) 559-9662 or via email at diana.rogelmendoza@unmc.edu.


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