Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual Teens More Likely Than Straight Peers to Smoke

Globally, cigarette smoking is common among young people, probably we all are aware of this worrisome fact. More worryingly, a new US study now reveals lesbian, gay and bisexual teenagers are more likely to use tobacco and tobacco products than heterosexual teens.

The study that also sheds light on gender differences in smoking habits found that 41 percent of lesbian or gay teens use tobacco products including both traditional and e-cigarettes, 39 percent of bisexual youth, and 32 percent of adolescents who are unsure about their sexual orientation.

That compares to only 30 percent of straight-identifying teens who have tried tobacco products.

When the US researchers focused on gender-wise smoking habits, they found lesbians were twice more likely than straight girls to smoke. The odds of tobacco use for gay teens, on the other hand, were roughly the same as for heterosexual boys, the study’s authors found.

“Gender does matter in tobacco use among sexual minority youth,” affirmed study’s lead author Dr Jongying Dai of the Children’s Mercy Hospital and the University of Missouri.

To reach their findings, Dr. Dai and colleagues examined data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey that involved 14,703 adolescents in high school. Of the participants, 88.8 percent were heterosexual/straight, while 6 percent were bisexual, 2 percent were gay or lesbian and 3.2 percent were not sure about their sexual identity. Investigators compared use of various tobacco products according to sex and different sexual identities.

The research team found that compared to the heterosexual/straight teens the prevalence of tobacco use was higher for sexual minorities. The lesbian and bisexual girls were more likely to use tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes than their straight counterparts. Likewise, the gay teens showed similar smoking behaviors when compared with straight boys. The team also witnessed a notable correlation between any tobacco use and substance use, including pot smoking, alcohol use, and binge drinking.

“Heterogeneity of tobacco use across distinct sexual identity groups underscores the need to develop evidence-based tobacco control strategies for sexual minority youth,” Dai insisted.

Commenting on the current study findings, Heather Corliss, a public health researcher at San Diego State University who wasn’t involved in the study, said providing a strong support system at home can make a difference for sexual minorities.

“The most important thing parents can do is to support their teens unconditionally and without judgment. This recommendation applies to parents of all teens regardless of their sexual orientation,” Corliss wrote in an email.

“Teens who have a strong attachment to a parent are less likely to use tobacco than those who are less connected to their family,” she added. “Parents should foster strong relationships with their teens, while at the same time maintaining consistent rules and limits.”

The study was published online on March 27 in Pediatrics.