Tobacco Product Use Among Sexual Minority Adults

Findings From the 2012−2013 National Adult Tobacco Survey
Published:October 30, 2015DOI:


      A growing body of evidence reveals higher rates of tobacco use among sexual minority populations relative to non-minority (“straight”) populations. This study seeks to more fully characterize this disparity by examining tobacco use by distinct sexual identities and gender to better understand patterns of: (1) cigarette smoking and smoking history; and (2) use of other tobacco products including cigars, pipes, hookah, e-cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco.


      Data from the 2012−2013 National Adult Tobacco Survey, a random-digit dialed landline and cellular telephone survey of U.S. adults aged ≥18 years, were analyzed in 2014. A sexual minority category was created by combining gay, lesbian, and bisexual responses, along with those who selected an option for other non-heterosexual identities.


      Smoking prevalence was higher among sexual minority adults (27.4%) than straight adults (17.3%). Cigarette smoking was particularly high among bisexual women (36.0%). Sexual minority women started smoking and transitioned to daily smoking earlier than their straight peers. Use of other tobacco products was higher among sexual minority women: prevalence of e-cigarette (12.4%), hookah (10.3%), and cigar use (7.2%) was more than triple that of their straight female peers (3.4%, 2.5%, and 1.3%, respectively). Likewise, prevalence of sexual minority men’s e-cigarette (7.9%) and hookah (12.8%) use exceeded that of straight men (4.7% and 4.5%, respectively).


      Tobacco use is significantly higher among sexual minority than straight adults, particularly among sexual minority women. These findings underscore the importance of tobacco control efforts designed to reach sexual minorities and highlight the heterogeneity of tobacco use within this population.
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