Are gay smokers puffing away LGBT civil rights?

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Maybe you remember that studies show gay Atlanta continuing to smoke despite risks to our overall health. Well, a new study shows that we do tobacco to the detriment of equality, too. Don’t believe it? Just follow the money for proof.

If dollars go where priorities really are – and not just where your mouth is – more of us value smoking over LGBT rights. In fact, the latest surgeon general's study of the nasty habit shows that gay people spend $7.9 billion on tobacco products. That's 65 times more than for reported donations to gay advocacy organizations. Just think what that kind of money each year could do for LGBT rights fights.

LGBT smokers are beginning to stand out from the crowd, and not in a good way.

The report examines the health implications of tobacco use in various demographics, but the numbers for LGBT people are particularly striking — especially given the recently uncovered fact that our community smokes at a rate 68 percent higher than the general population. …

“From the surgeon general's perspective we look at the data,” explains the acting surgeon general, Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH. “People ask where are the disparities now, and we use LGBT as an example of one of those disparities. I'm a man in uniform and this is a war. LGBT smoking is important to us, because the numbers aren't good. What we need to decide is. What is the best strategic and tactical approach to bring those numbers down?”

The out director of the Network for LGBT Heath Equity at Centerlink: The Community of LGBT Centers, has an idea about where to start in decreasing those health disparities.

“In order to end the epidemic for the LGBT communities we need to break the cycle of smoking in front of our youth, because smoking for us really is a socially transmitted disease,” explains Scout, Ph.D. “When we smoke in packs we're enticing every person near us to come on over, join the fun, and light up too. Then we need to offer LGBT-welcoming cessation to every person who smokes now. But the first step is clearly knowledge — we have to know it's our biggest killer before we can fight it. The LGBT community's health infrastructure is actually excellent. I have great confidence once we take aim at tobacco, we will overcome it.”

Results from a Health Initiative study of LGBT locals back up the stats. The problem is alarming in Atlanta. The good news is that gay Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan and quite a few gay bars seemed to react to the resulting Health Initiative recommendations to ban or limit cig stations around town. Not that even city ordinance against it could stop the diehards.


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