Abstract

Existing research indicates the rate of smoking among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youths exceeds the general population's, possibly due to stress, habitual substance abuse, socializing in smoky venues, and tobacco marketing. The study's overall aim was to conduct qualitative research regarding tobacco use and avoidance by LGBT youths. This report focuses on identifying priority subpopulations and corresponding risk and resiliency factors. Purposive and maximum variation sampling were used to select 30 LGBT youths and 30 interactors for face-to-face interviews. Almost a third of participants said that all LGBT youths are at risk for smoking. Other respondents specified a range of high-risk groups, encompassing many subpopulations. Contributing factors for smoking included personal characteristics, interpersonal issues, environmental conditions, and structural issues. More than a third of young smokers were not acquainted with LGBT nonsmokers and could not imagine how they avoid using tobacco. Half of the interactors and four youths ascribed favorable qualities to nonsmokers—such as self-esteem, will power, and concern for personal health, appearance, and well-being. In conclusion, smoking is a pervasive problem among LGBT youths. The findings corroborate prior explanations and implicate new ones. Some risks (e.g., limited opportunities to socialize with LGBT peers outside of smoking venues, the desire to appear more masculine, and sexuality-related stress) and resiliency factors (e.g., positive sexual identity) are unique to LGBT populations, reinforcing the need for culturally specific approaches to prevention and cessation. Highlighting the positive attributes of nonsmokers and nonsmoking might prove useful in prevention campaigns.

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