"We're spending more on what kills us than everyone spends to help us": How smoking's killing equality

With the LGBT community spending 65 times more money on cigarettes than funders spend on all LGBT-related issues, smoking hinders people's health as well as the health of our movement for equality.

"We're spending more on something that kills us than everyone else is spending to help us," said Dr. Scout, Director of CenterLink's Network for LGBT Health Equity, in perhaps the most straight-forward assessment of the Network's recent report.

Released in conjunction with the Surgeon General's Health Consequence of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress, CenterLink's Network provided information on 50 years of smoking's impact on transgender, bi, lesbian, and gay communities.

The core issue behind the Network's findings is not simply that LGBT people smoke, but rather that the high rates at which it occurs is putting the LGBT community at significantly greater disadvantages that, in many ways, outweigh the measurable strides towards full equality.

Additionally, smoking-related problems negatively impact youth, people of color, and people who are financially disadvantaged. Within the LGBT community, smoking is an epidemic heavily affecting those with intersecting identities.

"LGBT people, people of color, the poor; tobacco preys on stigma and too often we pay with our lives," according to Dr. Phoenix Matthews, a Network member and University of Illinois at Chicago tobacco researcher.

Here are some key takeaways from both reports:

  • LGBT people smoke at a rates 68% higher than the general population
  • The LGBT community spends $7.9 billion per year on cigarettes, which is 65 times greater than all the money spent on LGBT issues
  • 1 out of 3 of all cancer deaths are smoking-related
  • If current trends continue, 5.6 million currently-living American youths will die prematurely from smoking-related disease
  • Disadvantaged communities are more likely to be effected by smoking
  • There are solutions and they work

The fact sheet provided by the Surgeon General offers a look on the types of programs and policies that can bring an end to the habit effecting the health, wallets, and realities of millions of LGBT and non-LGBT people alike:

Evidence-based tobacco control interventions that are effective continue to be underused. What we know works to prevent smoking initiation and promote quitting includes hard-hitting media campaigns, tobacco excise taxes at sufficiently high rates to deter youth smoking and promote quitting, easy-to-access cessation treatment and promotion of cessation treatment in clinical settings, smoke-free policies, and comprehensive statewide tobacco control programs funded at CDC-recommended levels [emphasis added].

BuzzFeed has named a few of the regional campaigns and programs that help people become smoking-free, and even included a PSA from one such organization.

In addition to working towards bringing such intervention strategies to your community and beyond, you can share the Network's infographic below and take these statistics to social media using the hashtag #SGR50.

Dr. Matthews hopes these findings "shock people enough so we start building tobacco control into all of our communities' health program."

"Enough is enough," urged Dr. Scout. "It’s time to take strong measures to free the next generation of LGBT youth from this legacy."