Saturday, January 31, 2009

Lighting Up, Burning Down: Gays & Smoking

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"It's been over a year since I kicked some smoking butt. I remember having no desire to smoke before I started. I often hung out with people that smoked either at bars or just socializing. I finally accepted their offer to have a drag. One drag turned into half of a cigarette. That single stick turned into several bummed cigarettes a day and eventually a purchased pack. My habit was in full acceleration." This little anecdotal account, and the quote below, come from a longer article on cancers and gay men. It explains why gay men are more susceptible to cancers, the lung one included.

The same article also pinpoints the reason why gay men are more susceptible to lung cancer and other related health problems: "Smoke-filled bars and clubs are common hang outs for some gay men. For this reason, according to the American Cancer Society, gay men are more likely to smoke or be exposed to smoke. A recent article on gay smoking cites 36 percent of LGBT adults are smokers, compared with 25 percent of all adults. Smoking accelerates the progression of AIDS and increases the risk of lung cancer. HIV also accelerates smoking-induced emphysema." Not only is this an American phenomenon, but in the United Kingdom, an estimated 40 percent of gays smoke (click here for an article).

I see all the time friends at gay bars light up cigarettes without a care in the world. Coupled with the free flowing alcohol (which actually you have to pay for at exorbitant rates), smoking, and cruising seem synonymous with the bar culture. Perhaps for some gays, these behaviors enable them to ignore a difficult reality outside this glitzy fantasy of fashionable, pretty boys; adrenalin rushing music, and materialism galore. Then again, drinking and smoking lowers inhibitions, and allows them to keep on cruising, and cruising.

Ironically, for a gay culture that seemingly is obsessed with sex (I say seemingly, because not all of us are!), smoking actually creates hormonal imbalances that decrease libido. Not to mention smoking also causes yellow teeth, gum disease, and bad breath. And of course, smoking cuts the airflow to the skin, leaving it grey and dull. It is akin to choking you to death, one cigarette at a time.

So now that you know smoking makes you less "sexy," will you stop smoking? After all, we are well past the 1930s, when even doctors are exploited to promote cigarette smoking. Thank god, we are past that now (see the ad below from that decade).

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