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Posted on 07/06/2010 2:30 PM EST
We Must Do Our Part to Tackle High Tobacco Use in LGBT Community

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Deborah P. Brown
Dear Editor,

A recently released report by the American Lung Association places a spotlight on the health disparity that exists in tobacco use in the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGBT) community. The report, Smoking Out a Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community ultimately concludes members of the LGBT community are more likely to smoke than the general population. With tobacco use remaining the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., this puts members of the LGBT community at a greater risk of a litany of smoking-related diseases, including cancer, heart disease, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. What better time is there than now to recognize this disparity and push for ways in which it can be reduced.

Most state, local and public health organizations do not recognize sexual orientation or gender identity in its health surveys, so this means trends within the LGBT community often go unnoticed, and therefore, unremedied. Despite progress made in tobacco control in the U.S., and specifically in Delaware – currently, the adult smoking rate is 17.8%, compared to the national rate of 20.6% - tobacco addiction continues to claim lives and rob millions of their health. The Lung Association in Delaware continues to advocate for tougher legislation, tobacco prevention and cessation programs and better research to protect citizens from tobacco-caused illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services are being called on to include sexual orientation and gender identity questions in its public health surveys. State tobacco control programs should work to ensure that its curriculum, materials and staff are culturally competent and inclusive of the LGBT community. Local LGBT advocacy organizations should advocate for policies that promote tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and identify alternative funding sources to tobacco industry sponsorship.

Sincerely,

Deborah P. Brown, Acting CEO
American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic
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