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March 26, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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C.R.E.A.M. – Smoking In The Queer Community

According to a study done in 2003 by the University of California, yes. It found that in California openly gay men and women were 70 per cent more likely to smoke than people who were not openly gay. Recently this has been backed up by evidence from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The National LGBT Tobacco Control Network in America estimates that queer people smoke anywhere between 35 per cent to 200 per cent more than straight people.

One law change which I have never thought justifiable was the amendment to the Smoke-free Environments Act in 2003 to ban smoking in all indoor public places. Why not just allow consumers and workers who don’t want to partake in passive smoking to exercise their choice and not attend places that allow smoking? Because of the demand for indoor smoking, various venues push the boundaries of this law, but none more so than the Terrace Bar on Dixon St, which allows what is effectively indoor smoking by making its outward-facing wall an iron grating. The Terrace Bar is popularly frequented by the queer community, in no small part, no doubt, because it is directly below one of Wellington’s most popular queer venues. But is there more of a connection than simply the choice of location?

The most obvious reason seems to be that people with children are less likely to smoke, and due to generally discriminatory adoption laws, queer couples are disproportionately childless. People with children have less money to spend on cigarettes because they need that money to spend on other things: Diapers, food, medical care, education, houses with more bedrooms etc. There also tends to be a lot more social pressure on parents to quit smoking than on non-parents; most people are aware of evidence that children with parents who smoke are more likely to take it up.

Another potential contributing factor is approbation. Both smoking and being openly gay have historically been associated with varying degrees of
social stigma by the prevailing social attitudes of different times—though while this is becoming decreasingly true for homosexuality, it is increasing for smokers. It could be that people who are willing to come out of the closet are disproportionally the sort of people who are naturally less sensitive to what others think of them. It’s also probably true that the process of ‘coming out’ hardens one’s resolve against discrimination and social disapproval, or that after coming out all other social pressure just seems less powerful than it used to.

It’s also possible that in the US, where tobacco advertising remains legal, tobacco companies are able to successfully target the gay community simply by acknowledging their existence— something that many refuse to do in a country where around 80 per cent of the population identify as Christians—and by framing the fight against tobacco regulation, as a civil rights cause. Unfortunately like much in economics there is simply no easy way to answer this question.

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