This article was clinically reviewed by Haley, FNP.
Smoking (including vaping) is more common in gay, trans and queer communities. It is often viewed as a way to cope with stress, and it can be a common practice in LGBTQ social spaces like bars and clubs. Marketing schemes have targeted queer folks to use their products for centuries.
How can you be smoke-free in 2023 and beyond? Maybe you have thought about quitting smoking for a while. Perhaps it is a little inkling in the back of your mind that you know you should quit, but you're just not sure how. We've got some great tips and resources to help you decide how to quit smoking in our smoking cessation guide, tailored especially for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Tobacco use in the LGBTQ+ community
LGBTQI+ adults are over twice as likely to smoke than non-LGBTQI+ people. When it comes to LGB youth, including adolescents, “twice as many lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) adolescents report daily cigarette use compared to their non-LGB peers” (totaling 22% of LGB youth versus 11% of non-LGB youth).
Yet, smoking cessation campaigns don't target the LGBTQ+ community nearly enough. What does this mean, and why does this matter? It results in poorer health and loss of life. In the short term, smoking causes wrinkles and a constant odor of smoke stuck to your clothes. Having that tobacco residue on your hands can impact your sense of well-being and even create third-hand smoke for your pets' (or kids') sensitive nostrils.
According to the National LGBT Cancer Network, over a third of transgender folks smoke. Being bisexual increased the likelihood of being a smoker by nearly double. And when it comes to advertising, marketing media knows they can target LGBTQ folks. LGBTQI+ folks are three times more likely to see smoking ads on streaming websites.
Why quitting is hard
Quitting smoking is challenging because it's easy to feel alone. Nicotine is also incredibly addictive. Smoking is a habit that can be used to cope with social anxiety and impacts our mental health. Know you are not alone! Our clinicians are here to support you. We also offer support groups through the FOLX Community Platform to our members.
Sometimes, folks find that medication is helpful for quitting. Our clinicians can prescribe medications like bupropion (Wellbutrin) or varenicline (Chantix) to help with cravings.
What are the 4 phases of quitting smoking?
Smoking cessation can be broken down into four distinct phases.
1. Contemplation (thinking about quitting but not ready to quit)
2. Preparation (getting ready to quit)
3. Action (quitting)
4. Maintenance (remaining a non-smoker)
The first phase of quitting smoking is when you're thinking about quitting smoking. It crosses your mind, but you may not be completely ready to give it up just yet. This is the "contemplation phase."
The second phase of quitting smoking is the "preparation phase." This is where you take action to get ready to quit. Examples include throwing away (or smoking away) your final pack of cigarettes, hiding lighters, and telling your friends and family or chosen family about your plan to quit.
The third phase of smoking cessation is the actual action of quitting. The "action phase" of quitting. This is where your support system gets activated, and your commitment to quitting for real gets tested. It is not for the faint of heart, as this stage can last up to six months. However, with a bit of planning and forethought, you can educate yourself on what to expect and how to deal with the inevitable challenges.
In the third stage, connecting with a smoking support group or trusted health care provider can be beneficial. At FOLX, we offer both peer-to-peer support for our members and clinician guidance. Both are essential in sticking to your smoke-free lifestyle!
The final and fourth phase of quitting smoking tobacco is remaining a non-smoker. This means no slip-ups and smoking when triggers present themselves, like stress or drinking. Many people rely on cigarettes for stress relief. Some triggers signal to your brain to not quit just yet. For example, many folks smoke when they drink. Additionally, friends who are smoking can make it harder not to partake in a cigarette yourself.
What are the top 5 ways to quit smoking?
1. Try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
Substituting nicotine in your system with patches, gum, lozenges, or inhalers can help manage cravings from quitting smoking tobacco cold turkey. Lozenges are helpful because they are easy to suck on and may give some satisfaction to the oral fixation. Your FOLX primary care clinician can also send these replacements to the pharmacy for you.
2. Identify and manage triggers.
When you can identify triggers, you are paving a pathway to your quitting success. Think about what triggers are for you. Write them down. Is it your partner that isn't ready to quit smoking? A particular group of friends who vape at parties? Drinking alcohol? Having too many "urgent" deadlines at work?
Once you identify your triggers, you can think about how to navigate them. You may want to talk to your partner and friends about your goals around quitting smoking, and let them know how they can support you. You may want to stop drinking for a while if you find yourself with a cigarette in hand whenever a drink is in the other one. If stress is a trigger, talk to your coworkers and boss about your goals for quitting smoking if you feel comfortable doing so. They may have gone through something similar and can support you in coping with work stress.
For some people, stress is the main trigger. Finding a healthier coping skill like meditation or deep breathing exercises can help you pause and reduce stress before reaching for a cigarette. Try deep breathing exercises, like belly breathing. Another tool is MBSR or mindfulness-based stress reduction.
3. Set a target quit date and gain support from your network to help you stay accountable.
Write down your smoking quit date on a calendar or calendar app. Post about your date on your social media accounts so your network knows your goals and can help you stay accountable. Writing a goal down and telling others about it is a great way to stick to a challenging (yet doable) goal. Additionally, there are quitting apps you can use to help. Check out smokefree.gov's LGBT quitting tips. Having support from your community or from other folks trying to quit smoking is a great way to stay on track.
You may try to seek alternatives, like vaping. However, know that vaping is not quitting smoking. Be mindful of your cravings and tendencies.
4. Try prescription medications like Chantix or Wellbutrin.
Sometimes, medication can give us the push we need to achieve our goals. Our brains are intricately wired, and addiction to any substance is one of the hardest to conquer. Book a visit with one of our primary care clinicians to talk about quitting smoking and trying medication to help.
5. Consider behavioral therapy.
Behavioral therapy is a great way to manage your emotional connection to your actions. Search for LGBTQIA-friendly and trans-competent therapists. You can also book therapy visits with our mental health providers in select states. You can also book virtual primary care visits with our friendly FOLX clinicians to discuss mental health issues, including smoking cessation, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Inspiration to stay motivated
Staying motivated after you decide to quit is one of the most important and most challenging aspects of being smoke-free for life. Fortunately, there are many smoking cessation interventions. You can also get creative and make your own inspirational or aspirational reminders. Maybe you've always wanted to do a triathlon, dance in a drag performance, or have healthier skin. Stopping smoking could be the catalyst to catapulting you to your best self.
Smoking costs your health and your wallet
What is the average cost of smoking cessation? Let's compare it to the cost of smoking.
The priciest pack of cigarettes can be bought in New York state. The average cost is $12.85 for a single pack. A bit of simple math tells us that that totals $4,690.25 per year for a smoker who smokes one pack a day. Over 50 years, the average cost of smoking climbs to $234,512. For comparison, the estimated cost of raising a child until age 18 is $250,000.
You not only have to factor in the actual cost of cigarettes or e-cigarettes, but you also have to think about the cost of medical care for those who smoke. Not only does it impact your health, which is costly in itself, but medical care costs for chronic lung and heart disease are not cheap. Additionally, insurance premiums for smokers are about 15-20% higher compared to non-smokers.
Data from the LGBT Cancer Network reveals that queer communities spend 12 times as much on cigarettes compared to the amount donated to LGBTQ+ organizations. Quitting smoking could allow you to give back and get involved in the queer community as a positive substitute for smoking or vaping.
What are the benefits of quitting tobacco use?
Your health is impacted even after just 20 minutes of not smoking. Shortly after quitting, your skin clears up, and your clothes smell better. Your nails and teeth stop yellowing. Food tastes better, as your sense of smell returns. After 15 years of not smoking, your cardiovascular risk is that of a non-smoker.
In as little as two weeks, your blood circulation improves. Your risk of infection drops, and your breathing gets easier within one to 12 months after quitting smoking. Check out more benefits of quitting smoking over time, both long and short term, from the American Cancer Society.
Our aim is to partner with you to achieve your health goals. If you're thinking about quitting or are ready to quit, become a FOLX member and get the counseling and support you need. Our LGBTQIA-expert clinicians are here to help you find empowered health care that fits your life.
FOLX Health is the first digital healthcare company designed by and for the LGBTQIA+ community. Our services include virtual primary care, gender-affirming hormone therapy including estrogen and testosterone (HRT), mental health care, sexual and reproductive health care, preventive care, and fertility consultations. FOLX memberships give you access to LGBTQIA+ expert clinicians, peer support, thousands of LGBTQIA+ resources, and more. Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, gender non-conforming, or nonbinary, you can find LGBTQIA+-specialized health care that helps you meet your wellness goals. FOLX Health is health care that's queer all year. Get all the benefits of becoming a FOLX member and sign up today!