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LGBT Community Smoke More Than Missouri's Average

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or the LGBT community are 1.5 times more likely to smoke than the general population. KSMU’s Kristian Kriner reports.

Dean Andersen, a professor at the University of Missouri and the project coordinator for the tobacco study, says he and other researchers started this project over a year ago.

He traveled all over Missouri surveying thousands of people in the LGBT community in areas like St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield.

Andersen says most of the people interviewed said the main reason they smoke is to help them cope with stress.

“A lot of times people use smoking as a means of coping with stress and there’s a lot of homophobia in society and I think that translates into stress for a lot people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. So, people in that community tend to use smoking as a way of dealing with that stress,” Andersen said.

He says he found that 37 percent of the LGBT community said they intend to quit smoking within the next six months.

Andersen says most of the people in that community have trouble finding successful ways to kick the habit.

“Most people that are smokers in the LGBT community feel that cold turkey is the best way to quit, but research shows that really that is one of the least effective ways to quit. Seeking professional advice using nicotine replacement therapy along with counseling really increases the success rate,” Andersen said.

He says several of the people he surveyed weren’t knowledgeable about the harmful effects of smoking or other tobacco products.

Keith Alvarez is the secretary of the board of directors at the Gay and Lesbian Center of the Ozarks.

He says he has seen several studies like this one, so he wasn’t surprised by the results.

Alvarez, who does not smoke, says he sees a lot more smokers at the local center than non-smokers.

He says he has seen several members of the LGBT community in Springfield try to quit smoking.

“I know people that have tried to quit, but just couldn’t. They’re never quite sure why they can’t quit. They’re just so used to doing it that it’s second nature for them,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez says he agrees that most people use smoking as a stress reducer.He says he was surprised about one of the statistics in the study.

“I am surprised that 37 percent did say they intended to quit in the next six months though. Everyone I know who smokes, I don’t think they have any intention of quitting," Alvarez said.

Andersen says he and other researchers will use this study to try and set up smoking cessation groups geared toward the LGBT community in areas all across Missouri.

For KSMU News, I’m Kristian Kriner.