Gay and lesbian youth, like adult members of the LGBT community, could be 40-60 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes than their straight classmates, according to data recently presented at a conference of medical professionals.

Eight percent of the respondents in a survey of 12,000 US high school students acknowledged having same-sex attractions or relationships.

Of those, nearly 45 percent of females and 35 percent of males reported smoking, compared to the 29 percent smoking population of straight males and females.

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) presented the results of the survey conducted by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) at their annual conference held late October in California.

Kenneth Haller, M.D., president of GLMA, said he was deeply concerned with the study findings.

Although the findings are consistent with previous literature showing higher rates of smoking among GLB youth, GLMA hopes the conclusions will help to catalyse the community.

Previous records regarding smoking in the LGBT community include a 2001 Harris Interactive poll that found over a third of adults who self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender were smokers. A quarter of all adults smoked.

In the same poll, 98 percent of LGBT smokers believed smoking would shorten their lives compared to only 80 percent of all adult smokers. Both groups attempted to quit and failed an average of eight times.

As research continues to point to high smoking rates among LGBT populations -“ especially disproportionate among adolescents -“ it is important to continue these types of surveillance efforts and support programs to help reverse these trends, Alyssa Easton, Ph.D., lead author of the adolescent study, told The Advocate.

GLMA is in an ideal position and has the skills to help reduce smoking-related morbidity and mortality among LGBT and all communities.

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