Tobacco Use in LGBTQ Communities

Research consistently shows that smoking rates among the LGBTQ community are 2-3 times higher than the general population.1-4 Most of this research is from the United States; however, similar patterns have been found in limited Canadian studies.5

Why are rates so much higher in the LGBTQ community?

  • Tobacco is often used as a coping mechanism to deal with high levels of stress from: stigma, coming out, homophobia and discrimination, and living in a heteronormative and cisnormative society
  • Aggressive targeted marketing to LGBTQ communities by the tobacco industry (See:
  • Widespread tobacco use in the bar and party culture within LGBTQ communities
  • Provides a sense of belonging
  • LGBTQ people might not see themselves represented in mainstream anti-smoking campaigns, or may feel prohibited from accessing good health care and support to quit smoking due to prejudice and discrimination


For more information about terms and language used in this section, please see the Equity Glossary of Terms provided by the 519.

To learn more about the link between tobacco use and LGBTQ communities, visit


For LGBTQ friendly services to quit smoking, visit the quit resources on this site or check out the following partners:



  1. Greenwood, G.L., Paul, J.P., Pollack, L..M.,, Binson D., Catania, J.A., Chang, J., et al. (2005). Tobacco use and cessation among a household-based sample of US urban men who have sex with men. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 145-151.
  2. Tang, H., Greenwood, G.L., Cowling, D.W., Lloyd, J.C., Roeseler, A.G. & Bal, D. G.(2004). Cigarette smoking among lesbians, gays, and bisexuals: How serious a problem? (United States). Cancer Causes Control, 15, 797-803.
  3. Ryan, H., Wortley, P.M., Easton, A., Pederson, L. & Greenwood, G. (2001). Smoking among lesbians, gays, and bisexuals: A review of the literature. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 21, 142-149.
  4. Lee, J.G., Griffin, G.K. & Melvin, C.L. (2009). Tobacco use among sexual minorities in the USA, 1987 to May 2007: A systematic review. Tobacco Control, 18, 275-282.
  5. Clarke, M. P. & Coughlin, J. R. (2012). Prevalence of smoking among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, transgender, and quit (LGBTTQ) subpopulations in Toronto – The Toronto Rainbow Tobacco Survey (TRTS). Canadian Journal of Public Health, 103 (2), 132-136.