Smoking and LGBTQ+ Communities

Welcome to our briefing on smoking and LGBTQ+ communities.

The tobacco industry has a history of predatory marketing of tobacco products targeting marginalised communities, including LGBTQ+ people, which perpetuates economic and/or health inequities.

Evidence shows higher rates of smoking and tobacco product use by LGBTQ+ people compared to the general population.

The total size of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ+) community in Scotland is unclear. Data suggests between 1.7-7% of the population or 54,450 to 272,000 people identify as LGBTQ+.

How does smoking effect LGBTQ+ communities?


of lesbian and gay people smoke


of bisexual people smoke


of heterosexual people smoke

Why are higher smoking rates among LGBTQ+ people significant?

LGBTQ+ individuals are at greater risk of mental illness due to various factors, most notably due to experiences of homophobia, sexuality or gender-related bullying and social isolation

LGBTQ+ and smoking (3)
pexels-mental health

Smoking can both be a cause and effect of mental health problems including increasing risk of depression and anxiety, two mental health conditions common among LGBTQ+ people.

61% of LGBTQ+ people and 79% of non-binary people reported experiencing anxiety whereas 16% of the UK’s general population of adults in 2021 reports having anxiety.

LGBTQ+ and smoking
LGBTQ+ and smoking (1)

52% of LGBTQ+ people reported experiencing depression in 2018. 67% of transgender people and 70% of non-binary people reported feeling depressed in 2018.

Research shows quitting smoking decreases anxiety and depression symptoms, and increases improvement in positive feelings and mental wellbeing.

The effect of quitting smoking can have equal or greater benefits for mental health than anti-depressant treatment.

LGBTQ+ and smoking (2)

Learn more about smoking and mental health

Accessibility of healthcare and smoking cessation services

The types of stress experienced by LGBTQ+ people can detriment their physical health.

This concept is best explained by the minority stress model, which states that sexual and gender minorities are subject to unique forms of discrimination directly related to their sexual or gender identity i.e. homophobia or transphobia. The model demonstrates the negative impact these stressors have on the physical health of sexual and gender minority people. This vulnerability could lead to reduced accessibility of smoking cessation support.

The number of LGBTQ+ young people who feel supported by healthcare services in Scotland has decreased overall, most markedly for mental health services, which dropped from 74% of respondents feeling supported in 2017, to 55% in 2022.

Some LGBTQ+ people may be at greater risk of nicotine addiction due to the strong link between stress and smoking.

Poor experiences in healthcare settings often dissuades LGBTQ+ people from seeking help when they need it. This could cause reluctance in consulting health professionals for smoking cessation advice, which may harm their chances of successfully quitting smoking.

13% of LGBTQ+ people reported mistreatment from healthcare staff due to their LGBTQ+ identity. 32% of transgender people reported mistreatment.

Accessing specialist support and treatment can make an individual up to three to four times more likely
to successfully quit smoking

Visit Quit Your Way Scotland for support to quit smoking

You can download the PDF with these facts and figures

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