The Truth About Lesbian Smoking

Meg Cale

Did you know that LGBT adults smoke at rates up to 2.5 times higher than straight adults? Why? – in part it’s due to targeted marketing by Big Tobacco.


Our community is at risk for a ton of negative health outcomes as a result of societal stigma and discrimination. The rate of smoking in our community is one of the statistics that’s often overlooked. Where you live, who you love and how much money you have makes a big difference in whether you smoke or not. We’re influenced by so many messages in a day that it’s difficult to know where our ideas are coming from – which Big Tobacco uses to their advantage.

Tobacco is not an equal opportunity killer. It’s no coincidence that rates among some communities are higher: It’s a result of the decades of targeting and profiling of these groups by Big Tobacco, designed to hook us on their deadly product. For decades, people of color, low-income neighborhoods, LGBTQ communities and those with mental illness have been disproportionately affected by tobacco use—a result of profiling by the tobacco industry. Have you ever noticed how tobacco companies advertise at Pride and other LGBT community events and contribute to local and national LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS organizations? It’s not altruistic, it’s strategic.

This isn’t some groundbreaking secret I uncovered, it’s been pretty well documented, so why aren’t we as a community talking about this more?   

I’m old enough to remember the days when tobacco companies used to hand out free packets of cigarettes outside of gay bars. For years the tobacco industry has made efforts to appeal to our community through things like targeted advertisements in LGBT press and free merch at LGBT events. Today, our community is among the hardest hit by tobacco.
Which is why I’m proud to bring your attention to the #STOPPROFILING campaign from truth®.  #STOPPROFILING shines a light on how the tobacco industry deliberately singles out communities, like ours, that already face adversity and inequality with aggressive marketing tactics that equal profiling. Though teen smoking of traditional cigarettes reached an all-time low of 6 percent in 2016, #STOPPROFILING shows that it’s no coincidence that prevalence rates among certain communities are higher. Tobacco use is more than a public health issue, it’s a social justice issue.

Tobacco use is more than a public health issue, it’s a social justice issue.

How Can You Help?

Join truth by calling out tobacco industry profiling as it happens by tagging @truthorange and #STOPPROFILING. Start having conversations with LGBT folks about the history of profiling in our community. And don’t forget, you can also enlist at to get more involved in local actions nationwide.

I partnered with truth and Her Campus Media for this post. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Dopes on the Road possible!