New gay epidemic — and what you can do to end it

From the Huffington Post… 

(by Jimmy LaSalvia)

quit-smoking-man-largeThe new gay epidemic is an old one. It’s killing your gay friends and family, and it’s totally preventable. No, it’s not what you may be thinking. It’s not HIV/AIDS. I’m talking about smoking. Last week was LGBT Health Awareness Week, so this is good time to bring up a LGBT health crisis that many ignore or minimize. According to the American Lung Association, gay men are approximately 2.5 times more likely to smoke, and lesbians are about twice as likely as their straight counterparts. Most everyone knows that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death. That’s true for everyone, including LGBT Americans.

There’s not a physical reason why gay people smoke more, but there are some unique factors that contribute to the higher rate of smoking. For decades, the gay community has socialized and interacted in smoking venues such as bars. For a long time, gay bars were the only place for LGBT people to find others like them. It’s still a big part of gay culture and socialization. The American Lung Association also says that stress from social stigma and discrimination because of their sexual orientation is frequently cited as a reason that LGBT people start smoking. That’s especially the case with young people, who have a much higher rate of smoking than their straight peers.

It’s important for all of us, no matter who we are, to combat this epidemic within our own families and circles of friends. Understanding these unique pressures and risk factors can help us to urge our gay friends and family who are still smoking to stop. Quitting smoking is hard. Everyone knows that. While giving it up “cold turkey” (ideally with some advice from a doctor) is the best and most effective way, it’s just not possible for everyone. A wide range of pharmaceutical products — everything from over-the-counter nicotine gum to prescription medicine — can also help some people some of the time but also have very high failure rates particularly over the long term. Nicotine is addictive and quitting it is very, very hard.

For those who simply can’t quit or don’t want to there are products such as e-cigarettes and dissolvable smokeless tobacco that can help people with their addiction to nicotine without carrying the risks of smoking. These products are still addictive and certainly aren’t “safe” overall. But they are still safer than smoking. It’s the smoke that’s the real killer.

Continue reading on the Huffington Post.