Smoking Among California’s Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Populations

August 20, 2019


Previous studies and data analyses have shown that the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) populations are at a high risk for cigarette smoking. The California Department of Public Health, California Tobacco Control Program (CDPH/CTCP) analyzed data collected through the California Adult Tobacco Survey from 2005 through 2010. The analysis of six years of data ensured sufficiently large sample sizes. These data include those who self-identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual adults, aged 18 to 65 years old. The California Adult Tobacco Survey does not collect information on individuals’ transgender status.

Tobacco Use Behavior

  • Smoking prevalence of the California LGB populations was 27.4%, compared to 12.9% for heterosexual California adults over the six year period. That means that LGB individuals smoked more than twice as much as the heterosexual population.
  • Gay men’s smoking prevalence was more than 50% higher than heterosexual men (25.8% vs. 16.0%).
  • Lesbians’ smoking prevalence was two and a half times higher than that of heterosexual women (24.4% vs. 9.8%).
  • Almost one third (30.8%) of bisexual men and women smoked, which was two and a half times higher than heterosexual California men and women (12.9%).
  • The combined prevalence of adult gays and lesbians (excluding bisexuals) was 25.3%, which was almost twice the smoking prevalence of heterosexual Californians (12.9%).

Secondhand Smoke Exposure

  • LGBs are less likely to have a smoke-free home than heterosexuals. When asked whether smoking was allowed in their homes, 40.1% of LGBs indicated that they sometimes allowed it, compared to only 23.4% of heterosexuals.
  • LGBs are exposed more frequently to secondhand smoke. Almost 40% (39.1%) of LGBs indicated that they were often exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke at places other than their homes and work-places, compared to 31.6% of heterosexuals.
  • One fifth of LGBs (20.8%) indicated that they did not find other people’s smoking annoying at all, compared to 14.1% of heterosexuals who did not find it annoying at all.

Other Findings

  • The vast majority of LGBs prefer smoke-free outdoor dining, with almost 70% (69.5%) indicating that smoking should not be allowed in outdoor dining areas at restaurants.
  • LGBs have a high level of awareness of the tobacco industry’s targeting of vulnerable populations, with 80.3% indicating that tobacco advertising targets certain groups such as young adults, low income groups, and specific ethnic groups.

Click here to download the fact sheet summarizing tobacco use among California’s LGBT population.