09/12/2009

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GLBT Smoking Among Homosexuals 37% of the women smoke 33% of men smoke Among Heterosexuals 18% of women smoke 24% of men smoke The numbers for homosexual smokers were provided by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; they derived the numbers from a review of more than 40 studies about the use of tobacco by various minority groups. There's a press release about the study here, and right now, you can read the resulting article by J. G. L. Lee, G. K. Griffin, and C. L. Melvin. "Tobacco use among sexual minorities in the USA, 1987 to May 2007: a systematic review" in the August 2009 issue of the journal Tobacco Control. The numbers for heterosexual smokers were taken from the National Health Survey; both were quoted in this July 24, 2009 article from the Los Angeles Times. That GLBT people smoke more than other groups isn't exactly news; there's roughly twenty years of documented research to that effect. Nor are the GLBT communities simply smoking; there are a fair number of resources for people who are trying to quit. I've linked to several in the box at the bottom. There are, however, some differences in terms of queer cultures and smoking, and hetero cultures and smoking. For one thing, homosexual smokers are more likely to be childless, and to have more discretionary income to spend, as Steven E. Landsburg points out in this smart, thoughtful 2003 article in Slate. One of the researchers from the Chapel Hill study, Joseph Lee, a social research specialist, is quoted in the official press release: Likely explanations include the success of tobacco industry's targeted marketing to gays and lesbians, as well as time spent in smoky social venues and stress from discrimination. The relationships of socializing and smoking are not unknown to GLBT communities; see this QueerTips discussion of smoking in the communities and methods to help reduce smoking. What I found particularly chilling is that smoking is substantially higher among lesbians. And yes, I do think that the reasons for that include increased stress, more disposable income, and, quite frankly, the connections between bar culture and socializing. There are complex social rituals around smoking that allow smokers to "signal" each other in terms of availability and interest. It's not so much the let's-stand-outside-and-have-a-quick-smoke as it is the complex rituals around bumming a cig allow smokers to make contact in ways that non-smokers must accomplish much more obviously. There's the request for the smoke, the offer (or not) or a light, and how the other person's cigarette are lit—all of which allow women who smoke to indicate, often without words, their interest and availability very clearly and also, quite subtly. If you smoke, or someone in your family or a loved one smokes, here are some resources to help quit. For heaven's sake, don't nag the smoker. Nagging often makes smoking worse because it's stressfu. But you might suggest switching to brand that's filtered and has fewer chemical additives. Those additives actually enhance the addiction and affect the way our bodies process the nicotine. Try slowly smoking fewer cigarettes a day, or smoking more slowly. Even if smokers just managed to cut down, it's worth doing. Resources Gay American Smoke Out: How to Quit Smoking LGBT Factsheet on Quitting Smoking Originally posted: http://thatgayblog.com/article/glbt-smoking
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The Cost of Being Gay This New York Times article discusses the cost differences of same-sex couples in terms of federal benefits and taxes. Federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages or domestic partnerships, even if the state a couple resides in does recognize the relationship, and give the same-sex relationship legal status. Same-sex couples with with one spouse whose employer offers benefits for the other spouse are in terms of the federal tax law required to report the spouse's benefit as taxable income. This is not the case if the couple were heterosexual. There are also very distinct differences in terms of things like social security benefits. Same-sex couples do not receive the social security death benefit; nor, if one person makes more than the other, can the lower-income earning spouse receive benefits based on the income earned by the higher-salaried spouse. This is not the case with heterosexual couples. The article calculates a "life-time cost" of being being in a devoted single-sex relationship for a hypothetical lesbian couple in a relationship that lasted 46 years. In our worst case, the couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. But the number fell to $41,196 in the best case for a couple with significantly better health insurance, plus lower taxes and other costs. These numbers will vary, depending on a couple’s income and circumstance. Gay couples earning, say, $80,000, could have health insurance costs similar to our hypothetical higher-earning couple, but they might well owe more in income taxes than their heterosexual counterparts. For wealthy couples with a lot of assets, on the other hand, the cost of being gay could easily spiral into the millions. I know elderly same-sex couples who have been together for 40+ years. They have to file income tax separately. One of the women stayed home for twelve years to raise the other woman's children from a previous relationship, while her spouse earned an income. She has no right to her spouse's retirement pension, or social security benefits. She and her spouse were restricted to the lower amount allocated for non-married people for her spouse's IRA. A heterosexual couple can contribute more money to an IRA based on their status as a couple, even if only one of them earns income. Had they been working when same-sex partners were covered by some health insurance partners, that insurance would be taxed as income, though it isn't for heterosexual domestic partners or married couples. Isn't it is merely sound fiscal policy for the federal government to essentially treat same-sex relationships that are recognized by the individual states as they treat heterosexual relationships in terms of income tax, estate taxes, social security benefits, health insurance, medical savings accounts, and retirement investment? Think of the increased income from couples who can suddenly invest more in long-terms savings like IRAs and 401s, and medical savings plans, and the benefits of the "marriage penalty," wherein couples filing jointly pay more than they would filing separately, if one person makes substantially more than the other. It also seems to me to be the right way to treat people who have earned income and pay taxes. Originally published: http://thatgayblog.com/article/cost-being-gay