If you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual, you’re more than twice as likely to smoke as straight people in California.
This may come as no shock to L.A.'s gay residents. In clubs, smoking can be as much a part of the scene as the dance floor. Stepping outside for a smoke with a hot guy doesn’t always happen by accident.
Statistics released last year by the California Department of Public Health showed 27.4% of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population smokes compared to 12.9% of the heterosexual population.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is targeting populations particularly vulnerable to smoking, such as gay people, in a new campaign. The CDC also says the hazards of smoking can be compounded by certain diseases, such as HIV.
Brian Ingram of Hollywood remembers his clubbing days and stepping outside after every good song for a cigarette. He started smoking at 13 and the idea of quitting never really entered his mind.
In December 2012, Ingram suffered a stroke at the age of 43.
Ingram said the ceramic art he makes looks “different” these days. Due to numbness in his right side caused by the stroke, he doesn’t have the same level of sensitivity at the potter’s wheel.
Ingram no longer can teach yoga either, something he enjoyed doing. He believes most people don’t want to smoke and probably find the fact that they do it embarrassing. He hasn’t had a cigarette since his stroke.
He also wants to make sure people who have HIV, as he does, understand that smoking increases inflammation in the body. Inflammation leads to conditions such as stroke and heart disease. People with HIV already have elevated inflammation from the disease itself.
It is very hard to quit, Ingram admits. There are heavy smokers at his ceramics studio.
His story is being featured in the CDC’s “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign. The campaign uses targeted advertising on social media as a way to share the stories of those who have quit. A campaign launched around gay pride month featured a lesbian couple.
The CDC’s anti-smoking push comes on the coattails of a campaign by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health last year called “Break up with Tobacco.” The campaign highlighted statistics relevant to L.A.'s gay population, such as:
-One in four gay men in California smoke, compared to only 16% of straight men. Almost one in four California lesbians smoke as well, two and half times the rate of heterosexual women.
-Bisexual men and women smoke the most. Almost one in three light up.
There are about 900,000 smokers in Los Angeles County, and smoking-related diseases cost the county about $4.3 billion per year, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said last year in a statement.
The CDC offers a hotline to help people quit smoking. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
Or you can do what Ingram did and call California’s quitting hotline at 1-800-NO-BUTTS.
--By David Heitz, Brand Publishing Writer