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A Deadly Enemy - Not AIDS - in the Gay Community

February 15, 2010

Hartford, CT - The issues of gays in the military and same-sex marriage have been much in the news, but an advocacy group in Hartford is tackling another issue - one that is killing people in their community. It's not AIDS, it's tobacco.

According to a recent survey, Americans who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender are between one-and-a-half and three times more likely to smoke than Americans in general. The Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective has received a two-year, $90,000 grant from the Connecticut Department of Public Health to lower smoking rates in this population.

Tobacco control cessation coordinator Cassidy Weyel says it's challenging, because tobacco advertising has been specifically targeted at gays, and many turn to smoking because of stressful lives.

"The community's also dealing with a lot of stigma. There's a lot of oppression, discrimination; people are dealing with the stress of coming out and homophobia."

Weyel says the smoking cessation program begins this month with a variety of help options.

"We're offering one-on-one and group counseling services, as well as medications like nicotine patches and Chantix."

Almost half a million Americans die every year from smoking-related diseases.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT