Studies over the past decade suggest that gay men smoke at higher rates than men in the general U.S. population. This puts gay and bisexual men at high risk for smoking-related illness as smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Smoking is associated with higher rates of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and chronic obstructive lung diseases. Quitting smoking has immediate as well as long-term benefits for you and your loved ones.

What are the health effects?

Many people already know most of the dangers of smoking but here are some quick and hard facts on diseases caused by tobacco use, such as cancer, heart disease, and respiratory diseases.


  • The risk of dying from lung cancer is more than 22 times higher among men who smoke cigarettes and about 12 times higher among women who smoke cigarettes compared with nonsmokers. 
  • Cigarette smoking increases the risk for many types of cancer, including cancers of the lip, oral cavity, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, larynx (voice box), lung, uterine cervix, urinary bladder, and kidney. 
  • Rates of cancers related to cigarette smoking vary widely among members of racial/ethnic groups but are highest among African-American men. 

Heart Disease and Stroke

  • Smoking causes coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Cigarette smokers are 2–4 times more likely to develop coronary heart disease than nonsmokers. 
  • Cigarette smoking approximately doubles a person’s risk for stroke. 
  • Cigarette smoking causes reduced circulation by narrowing the blood vessels (arteries). Smokers are more than 10 times as likely as nonsmokers to develop peripheral vascular disease. 
  • Smoking causes abdominal aortic aneurysm (a weakening and bulging of the large blood vessel that supplies the lower half of the body with its blood supply). 

Respiratory Health

  • Cigarette smoking is associated with a tenfold increase in the risk of dying from chronic obstructive lung disease. 
  • About 90% of all deaths from chronic obstructive lung diseases are attributable to cigarette smoking.

Second Hand Smoking

What is secondhand smoke?

  • Secondhand smoke is a complex mixture of gases and particles that includes smoke from the burning cigarette, cigar, or pipe tip (sidestream smoke) and exhaled mainstream smoke.
  • Secondhand smoke contains at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic, including more than 50 that can cause cancer!

What are the effects of secondhand smoke exposure?

  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease and lung cancer in non-smoking adults.
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25–30% and their lung cancer risk by 20–30%.
  • Breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk of heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms in children and slows their lung growth.
  • Secondhand smoke causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children.
  • There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. Even brief exposure can be dangerous.

Secondhand Smoke May Have Added Impact in the LGBT Communities

  • Because of an emphasis on bars and restaurants as social spots for LGBT people, there is a significant possibility for exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • According to the American Legacy Foundation, sexual minorities are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to smoke cigarettes with bisexual women up to 3.5 times more likely to be smokers. With this increased smoking in such a small population, it definitely makes second hand smoke a larger issue in the LGBT community.


Adapted from information found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Smoking and Tobacco Use section: