Unidentified, Underserved and Dying from Tobacco in the LGBT Community

While public health efforts targeting the LGBT community remain focused on sexual and behavioral health care, smoking-related illnesses are the number one cause of preventable death.

In 1964 the office of the U.S. Surgeon General released its first report linking smoking to poor health outcomes. Since then there have been more than 30 additional reports highlighting half a century of progress in tobacco control and prevention, but only three have mentioned lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations, and a 2014 report was the first and only to include transgender as an identity. This is in spite of dramatically high smoking rates in the LGBT community who are up to 70 percent more likely to smoke than the general population, according to the most recent research. LGBT people have spent about 65 times more per year on tobacco products than is spent to fund LGBT equity issues. In NYC people who identify as LGBT, men who have sex with men, and women who have sex with women, are two to three times as likely to be current or former smokers, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

While public health efforts targeting the LGBT community remain focused on sexual and behavioral health care, smoking-related illnesses are the number one cause of preventable death. Medical and behavioral health care providers are not consistently talking to their patients about tobacco use, although research shows that even a three minute intervention can improve patient cessation rates. Furthermore, providers often fail to ask about gender identity and sexual orientation of their patients, although it is recommended by The Fenway Institute, a national LGBT health education center, so providers can address the disparate physical and psychological health needs of this group.

At New York City Treats Tobacco, a grant funded project housed at the NYU Langone in the Department of Population Health, we are working on increasing access to tobacco cessation treatment for the LGBT community by partnering with health care organizations to build capacity and implement sustainable practices. If you are a representative of a health care organization in the city and are interested in learning how to align your practice with the evidence-based guidelines for treating tobacco use and dependence, please contact 646-501­2537 or info.nyctt@nyumc.org.

NYC Treats Tobacco has also joined forces with NYC Smoke Free, a program of Public Health Solutions working to protect the health of New Yorkers through tobacco control policy, advocacy, and education. Along with other community partners, we collaborate on the NYC LGBT Smoke-Free Initiative, working to reshape the social norms around smoking in the LGBT community by bringing awareness to the health risks of smoking, the LGBT targeted marketing of big tobacco, and the disparate effects of tobacco on LGBT youth and adults in New York City. If you would like to learn more about the initiative, contact Patrick Kwan, director of NYC Smoke-Free, at pkwan@healthsolutions.org or 646-619-6689.

Interested in quitting? One of the best resources is the LGBT Smoke-Free Project, which is located at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center in Manhattan. To get more information about the type of smoking cessation programming available, please contact Erin McCarron at 646-556-9288 or emccarron@gaycenter.org .

About NYC Treats Tobacco                    

NYC Treats Tobacco (NYCTT) is a project funded by the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Tobacco Control and is led by the NYU School of Medicine, Department of Population Health. NYCTT supports health care organizations, particularly those addressing the needs of underserved patient populations, to implement policies and system changes that will ensure that all patients are routinely screened for tobacco use and all tobacco users are offered evidence-based treatment for nicotine dependence.

About NYU Langone Medical Center

NYU Langone Medical Center, a world-class, patient-centered, integrated academic medical center, is one of the nation’s premier centers for excellence in clinical care, biomedical research, and medical education. Located in the heart of Manhattan, NYU Langone is composed of four hospitals—Tisch Hospital, its flagship acute care facility; Rusk Rehabilitation; the Hospital for Joint Diseases, the Medical Center’s dedicated inpatient orthopedic hospital; and Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, a comprehensive pediatric hospital supporting a full array of children’s health services across the Medical Center—plus the NYU School of Medicine, which since 1841 has trained thousands of physicians and scientists who have helped to shape the course of medical history. The Medical Center’s tri-fold mission to serve, teach, and discover is achieved 365 days a year through the seamless integration of a culture devoted to excellence in patient care, education, and research. For more information, go to NYULMC.org, and interact with us on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

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