Research continues to document GLBTs smoke more than others
San Diego takes steps to create a smoke-free city
Published Thursday, 28-Dec-2006 in issue 992
While research continues to document that GLBT people smoke more than their heterosexual counterparts, San Diego has begun taking steps to adopt a smoke-free environment in public parks, beaches and other areas.
A 2005 Department of Health Services Tobacco Control survey found that 14 percent of Californians smoke, but according to its 2004 LGBT Tobacco Use Survey, 30.4 percent of GLBT people were smokers. The 2004 survey also documented that 47 percent of lesbians between the ages of 18 and 24 were smokers, compared to the average rate for that age group overall, which was 18 percent. The percentage of gay men aged 18-24 who smoked was 37.4 percent.
The 2004 data also showed lesbians smoked at almost triple the rate of the general population of women – 32.5 percent compared to 11.9. Gay men smoked at 27.4 percent, significantly higher than California men in general at 19.1.
According to the American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit group that helps to reduce tobacco use in the U.S. by promoting a range of quit-smoking programs geared toward youth and adults, further research is needed to understand the prevalence of tobacco use within the GLBT community and the risk factors that influence their smoking behavior.
“Little is known about the determinants of smoking among GLBT adults, and even less is known about these factors for GLBT adolescents,” said Patricia McLaughlin, senior director of communications at the American Legacy Foundation. “A number of hypotheses exist: GLBT youth may be especially vulnerable to tobacco use because of higher levels of stress related to identity and sexual exploration; increased feelings of being an outsider; less support from family, friends and community; higher levels of emotional, psychological and other life stress; and exposure to adult GLBT environments that support smoking.”
GLBT youth are estimated to have especially high smoking rates, with a range varying from 38 to 59 percent compared to a range of 28 to 35 percent for adolescents in general, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found.
“That’s where it’s absolutely out of orbit,” said Ross Porter, communications director for the American Lung Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “To a certain extent, tobacco companies have targeted gay youth as trend-setting. One reason why young people take up smoking is that they want to express independence…. It’s a social lubricant, so that’s another reason why it’s prevalent.”
Tobacco companies first realized they had a target market within the GLBT population in the early ’80s, Porter said. “There were a number of documents that were unearthed that showed how R.J. Reynolds, for one, wanted to actively recruit new smokers in bigger cities, ethnic areas as well as gay areas.”
In 1995, R.J. Reynolds, whose brands include Camel, Winston and Pall Mall, conducted a marketing plan in San Francisco called Project SCUM, which stands for Sub Culture Urban Marketing. The campaign specifically targeted minority populations, including the GLBT community.
“The information came out as part of a large release of hundreds of thousands of pages of documents that were required by court order,” Porter said. “Those of us in the tobacco control community could see this as very clear evidence that the tobacco companies have worked very hard to target emerging markets. They’re working very hard to stay abreast of trends to capitalize on anything youth want, whether it’s independence, rebellion, you name it. The fact that gay people are trend-setters makes them at risk for tobacco company marketing.”
The Tobacco-Free Communities Coalition works in the San Diego region to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke among San Diego County children, youth and adults.
In 2006, the TFCC assisted with the adoption of more than a dozen new smoke-free policies by local governments, college campuses and private venues.
In January, Del Mar joined Solana Beach in declaring smoke-free beaches and parks, and Imperial Beach adopted smoke-free parks and beaches in April. Coronado adopted smoke-free parks and beaches in August.
San Diego City Councilmembers Scott Peters and Jim Madaffer led the support for smoke-free beaches and parks in San Diego, and on June 19 the City Council voted unanimously to ban smoking at San Diego’s parks and beaches. The ban took effect in mid-August.
The city ordinance covers Balboa Park, Mission Bay Park and all city beaches between Point Loma and Torrey Pines. Violators are likely to get a warning for a first offense, but fines start at $250.
The San Diego Unified Port District’s board adopted smoke-free rules on Dec. 5 in all tideland parks and beaches, including launch ramps, fishing piers, jetties and parking lots.
Earlier this year, the Metropolitan Transit System board voted to ban smoking at bus stops, and a formal ordinance was adopted unanimously on Dec. 14, establishing a 25-foot buffer zone around all MTS stops.
On Dec. 6, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance with a vote of 4-1 to prohibit smoking in the county’s 40,000 acres of parks and open spaces. The ordinance takes effect in January and includes campgrounds, historical sites and sports parks.
In February, the San Diego Padres announced that Petco Park would be smoke-free during the 2006 season, and Qualcomm Stadium went smoke-free in October. Qualcomm was the first professional football stadium in California to go smoke-free.
College campuses also adopted new smoke-free policies this year. Mesa College will be smoke-free when the semester begins in January, and Grossmont/Cuyamaca will designate smoking areas and has committed to creating a smoke-free campus.