Whilst in the UK I read an article that stated that smoking continues to be the number one killer of gay men and lesbians. This should really come as no major surprise as it is well documented that smoking is responsible for one in five deaths in the world, or 3,000,000 per year. Research has also shown that over 50 percent of smokers will die prematurely as a direct result of tobacco-induced illnesses.

As part of a major new push in the UK, the Gay Men Fighting AIDS (GMFA) organisation has organised Stop Smoking Groups For Gay Men. These groups have been started based on new research which found that when smokers were asked if they could live their life over again, would they be a smoker, 78 percent of those aged between 16 to 24 said that they wouldn’t.

In the survey they were also asked about how optimistic they were about quitting. Eighty percent felt sure they would quit within 10 years. However, if you look at the research, quitting smoking is never easy and these smokers are quite possibly deluding themselves. Studies show that about two-thirds of them will still be smoking when they are 40 and about half of them when they are 60.

The UK survey showed that older smokers are even more likely to say they regret being smokers, with 90 percent of 45- to 64-year-olds saying that they wouldn’t smoke if they had their time again.

On top of this, 70 percent of smokers want to quit -“ so as a result these courses have been developed, specifically for gay men. Based on government-approved courses, they offer skills and support and offer gay men as trainers because it is believed that it might be easier to talk in a group of gay men about some of the situations where the temptation to smoke is greatest. Many gay men meet each other and socialise in environments where smoking is the norm -“ bars and clubs -“ and as a result smoking rates can be higher.

According to their website, GMFA’s first three Smoking Cessation courses have all proved a success. Around 28 of the 40 men who have signed up for the courses have quit the evil weed. The course runs over seven evenings with quit week in week three. Nationally around three-fifths of people who make it to the end of quit week make it to the end of the course. In the GMFA course, four out of five who got that far made it right to the end. Participants were attracted by the feeling that they would be more comfortable talking about some aspects of smoking in a gay environment.

Smoking cigarettes often tends to get lost in the drug debate, particularly in the gay and lesbian community. There are courses available to quit smoking but they are not tailored to gays and lesbians. Possibly this innovative UK course could be replicated here by some interested community group.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug, and no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?

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