Sexual minority youth face health disparities and a high risk of substance abuse. This study sought to fully characterize the disparity of tobacco use and risk factors in this high-risk subpopulation.
Using data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the current use of various tobacco products (cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, and e-cigarettes) was compared according to sex and distinct sexual identities (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and unsure). Heterosexual/straight adolescents served as the control group.
Of 14 703 respondents, 88.8% were heterosexual/straight, 2.0% were lesbian or gay, 6.0% were bisexual, and 3.2% were unsure about their sexual identity. Sexual minorities had a higher prevalence of tobacco product use than their heterosexual/straight counterparts. Sex had a significant effect on the disparities of tobacco use. Lesbian and bisexual girls had higher odds of reporting current use of any tobacco product, cigarettes, cigars, and e-cigarettes than did straight girls, whereas sexual minority boys had similar smoking behaviors compared with straight boys. Substance use, including marijuana use, drinking, and binge drinking, was significantly associated with any tobacco use.
Tobacco use differs among subgroups of sexual minority youth, with lesbians and bisexual girls having a higher prevalence of tobacco use than their straight peers. Heterogeneity of tobacco use across distinct sexual identity groups underscores the need to develop evidence-based tobacco control strategies for sexual minority youth.