UH wants to know why gay Houston smokes

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Researchers at the University of Houston put out an open call for queer smokers to help understand why we smoke more than straight people and hopefully inform future endeavors to snuff out the problem. And you'll be rewarded for participating.

The scientists behind Project FRESH AIR — Focused Research to Enhance Social Health Among Individuals in the Rainbow — know that lesbian, gay and bisexual people pick up the habit much more often than their heterosexual counterparts. But more research is needed to understand why and do something about it, says Nathan G. Smith, UH associate professor in the Coping & Resilence Lab under the Department of Psychological, Health & Learning Sciences.

“LGBQ individuals are over twice as likely to smoke as non-sexual minority individuals in the general population,” Smith tells Project Q. “The reasons for this are likely multifaceted, ranging from the effects of the unique cultural stressors we face to the influence of targeted tobacco advertising campaigns.”

Even if you don't think that smokers are puffing away LGBT rights or can't align your attitudes about smoking in public, we can all agree that queer smoking is an issue. The UH project, which Smith co-spearheads with Lorraine Reitzel of UH’s Social Determinants & Health Disparities Lab, aims to get to the bottom of the rates and stats, he says.

“We are interested in how the specific stressors that sexual minority individuals face – such as discrimination and unfair treatment – impact their health behaviors,” Smith says. “It is important to better understand these factors so that we can appropriately tailor interventions to reduce smoking, and associated tobacco-related health disparities, in the LGBQ community.”

So if you’re a gay smoker interested in collecting gift cards and other incentives, there are a few requirements to participate in the study. You must be 18 or older, not currently pregnant or breastfeeding, and you must identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or queer. Sexual orientation, not gender identity, is the focus of this study, so transgender people must also identify as LGBQ to participate.

Once enrolled, expect to visit the UH campus twice, answer computer questionnaires and give them six saliva samples. Participants must also agree to GPS monitoring for about a week during the study. You can also expect to take heart in the researchers’ broader goals beyond smoking and to the heart of overall queer health in Houston.

“We also seek to get a holistic view of the health of LGBQ Houstonians,” Smith asserts. “Consequently, this study also focuses on diet, exercise, and other health behaviors. Little is known about the health behaviors of the LGBQ community, and we hope that this study will lead to insights about how to best promote health and wellness among LGBQ individuals and groups.” 

The study aims to tailor anti-smoking messages and cessation programs to reduce queer smoking in the long run, but you can still earn incentives, including up to $80 in Target gift cards, by participating in the study even if you have no intention of kicking the habit.

“Participants in Project FRESH AIR do not have to want to quit, but we hope that what we learn from the study can be helpful in making quitting easier for them when they are ready to try,” Smith says. “The health of our individuals is vital to the prosperity of our community, and we sincerely hope that you can join in our mission to promote the wellness of LGBQ Houstonians.”

Queer smokers interested in participating in the UH study can call 713-743-6444. You can also direct questions regarding the study by e-mail to Dr. Nathan G. Smith or to Dr. Lorraine R. Reitzel.


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