same sex couple 

Sexual Orientation, Gender, & Tobacco

Tobacco Use in Colorado's LGBTQ Community

In Colorado, 38% of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning (LGBTQ) community use tobacco products compared to 18% of Coloradans as a whole.

Risks of Tobacco Use

Tobacco use increases the risk of

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Quicker aging of the face and skin
  • Tooth loss
  • Emphysema
  • Other smoking-related diseases that can be fatal

Contributing Factors for High LGBTQ Smoking Rates

There are many reasons why people smoke:

  • Stress
  • A break from the day
  • Social incentives
  • Connection with others
  • Addiction

Targeted Advertising

The LGBTQ community has been directly targeted by the tobacco companies. R.J. Reynolds, producers of Camel tobacco products, launched Project S.C.U.M. (Subculture Urban Marketing) in the mid 1990s to specifically target the homeless and LGBTQ communities. R.J. Reynolds was looking to boost their cigarette sales to vulnerable populations with already high smoking rates.

Event Sponsorship

Big Tobacco has also financially supported LGBTQ events and establishments like:

  • Gay bars
  • Pride festivals
  • Giveaways

Unfortunately, Big Tobacco has provided this support with the agenda of attracting more smokers. They have strategically appealed to the LGBTQ community’s values of choice, freedom, and pride.

Smoking Is a Health Equity Issue

LGBTQ Youth in Boulder County

LGBTQ high school students in Boulder County form a vulnerable population that may be strongly targeted. LGBQ (survey data did not include transgender) youth in our community have higher rates of current, frequent, and heavy cigarette use than their heterosexual peers. The 2011 Boulder County Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) indicates that about 4 in 10 LGBQ high school students were current smokers (having smoked cigarettes on 1 or more of the 30 days prior to the survey), compared to about 1 in 10 of their heterosexual peers.

Early Initiation

YRBS data indicate higher rates of early initiation among LGBQ high school students, who were 5 times more likely than heterosexual high school students to have smoked a whole cigarette before age 13. Among the 14.1% of students who were current cigarette users, 65.5% of LGBQ students (versus 47.3% of heterosexual students) had tried to quit smoking during the 12 months prior to the survey.

YRBS Data from 2011

Ever smoked cigarettes: Even 1 or 2 puffs
Ever smoked cigarettes daily: Smoked at least 1 cigarette every day for 30 days
Current frequent cigarette user: Smoked cigarettes on 20 or more days of the 30 days prior to the survey
Current cigarette user: Smoked cigarettes on 1 or more of the 30 days prior to the survey

Quit Smoking

There are resources to help those who want to quit. The Colorado QuitLine is a local resource that has LGBTQ-competent coaches and tools. The QuitLine specifically:

  • Trains their employees in regards to the need of the LGBTQ community
  • Offers phone counseling
  • Free nicotine replacement therapy (NRT):
    • Patches
    • Gum
    • Lozenges

Other Resources for Quitting Smoking

 Related Links


OASOS Program

Main: 303-579-2676
Submit a question