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HEALTH

LGBT community has higher rate of smoking than other groups


Jennifer Medvin, RN | September 05, 2006

Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "Quitting smoking is easy. I've done it a thousand times.� Cigarette smoking is the greatest cause of preventable deaths in the US and on the average, people who smoke die 5 to 8 years earlier than people who don't smoke.

Cigarettes are, unfortunately, a part of LGBT culture. I remember a billboard in West Hollywood that stated the most common pick-up line in the gay community is, �Do you have a light?� Marlboro sends young, good-looking surveyors out to the bars in West Hollywood to gather the patron�s information and then present them with a free Zippo lighter. A trap that bombards the victim�s mailbox with brochures and coupons for cigarettes.

In 2001, an article in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine stated, �evidence suggests that since the 1980�s, the tobacco industry has targeted the gay market through direct advertisement, sponsorship, and promotional events.� Tobacco companies created an advertising campaign titled �Project SCUM� which stood for �subculture urban marketing.� The consumer subcultures included �alternative lifestyle� along with �street people.�

Some theories why LGBT adults have increased smoking rates include: bars and dance clubs as the prime social outlet, reduced access to health care, stress related to identity issues and less support from family and society.

Even though the national percentage of people who smoke has decreased, the numbers still remain high in the LGBT community. In 2004, a survey in California showed more than 30 percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were smokers. Lesbians have been shown to smoke twice as much as heterosexual women according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Smokers have a higher chance of developing a list of many life threatening illnesses including: throat, mouth, esophageal, pancreatic, kidney, bladder, and cervical cancer, increased blood pressure, peptic ulcers, and a greater than average chance of hip, wrist, and spinal fractures. Also, those who smoke are at twice the risk for developing fatal heart disease. Furthermore, smoking is the major cause of emphysema, a debilitating lung disease which slowly destroys a person's ability to breathe normally. In addition, smokers tend to get colds and other respiratory tract infections more often than nonsmokers.

According to the American Cancer Society, �cigarette smoking accelerates the start of AIDS among people with HIV� and �HIV accelerates smoking induced emphysema.� Other studies have found an association between smoking and an increased risk for certain opportunistic infections associated with HIV such as Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia (PCP).

For those that would like to quit smoking and rid themselves of the stinky clothes and bad breath, there are nicotine inhalers, patches, lozenges, gums and nasal sprays. Alternative therapies such as hypnosis and acupuncture are also available.

On the market today, there are two medications that require a prescription to help in smoking cessation; Zyban (bupropion HCL) and Chantix (varenicline). Chantix attempts to block the nicotine receptors in the brain, helping people overcome nicotine cravings and withdrawal symptoms including: irritability, shakiness, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping and increased appetite. All the studies showed primarily mild side effects from any of the drugs. Some people on Chantix complained of nausea and unusual dreams, while those on Zyban had more insomnia.

None of these treatments are a miracle cure. You still need to learn to live without cigarettes in your daily life. It is more helpful to join an organized quit-smoking program while you are using nicotine replacements to help you quit.

There are many things you can do to help yourself quit smoking:
  • Set a quit date and make sure to throw your remaining cigarettes away.
  • Join a nicotine-anonymous class or support group.
  • Start an exercise program.
  • Think about using nicotine gum or patches.
  • >Think about asking your doctor for a prescription medicine that can help you quit.
  • Within the first 24 hours of quitting, your chances of a heart attack begin to decrease and by one year the likelihood of a heart attack is cut in half. Quitting smoking helps your circulation, your stamina, your skin, and your overall health. Quitting smoking also reduces the likelihood of your getting respiratory problems and lung cancer.

    Remember, it is never too late to quit smoking. – Issued by Gay Link Content
  • Jennifer Medvin is a perioperative registered nurse at a level II trauma hospital in Southern California. If you would like information about a certain medical subject, let Jennifer know here: getthenurse@gmail.com


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