The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has announced a $50,000 grant to the National Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health and the Whitman-Walker Clinic to help reduce smoking in the greater Cleveland and St. Paul, Minn., areas. The grant was one of 25 issued through the foundation's "Tobacco Policy Change: A Collaborative for Healthier Communities and States" program. It will be used to advocate for stricter tobacco policies, including limiting indoor smoking, to help protect the health of residents of the two Midwestern states.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are 40% to 60% more likely to smoke than nongays," says Donald Hitchcock, national field director of the National Coalition for LGBT Health. "We are very glad RWJF has added its name to the long list of funders who have acknowledged the impact of tobacco in the LGBT population and the true need to address this on a local level."
The American Cancer Society estimates that tobacco use kills at least 30,000 gay and lesbian people a year in the United States. Tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the nation. In the United States, tobacco kills more people each year than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, murder, illegal drugs, and fire combined. While research is lacking on the cumulative effect of secondhand smoke on the LGBT communities, it is known that annually almost 40,000 nonsmokers in this country die from lung cancer and heart disease due to secondhand smoke exposure. "A Harris poll has shown that LGBT people are willing to pay extra to go into a smoke-free bar," says Hitchcock. "Clearly, secondhand smoke has a big impact on our communities."