An established body of research documents that sexual minority (i.e., lesbian, gay, and bisexual) populations are at higher risk for several adverse health behaviors and outcomes compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Smoking is one behavior where the gap is especially large, particularly among youth. Researchers have increasingly drawn attention to contextual determinants of health behaviors affecting sexual minority youth.
Although these factors have evolved over time, few scholars have examined time as a contextual factor that affects sexual minority health behaviors or the level of inequality with heterosexual populations. We aimed to fill this gap.
We used eight years of data from the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey (MYRBS), pooled into four waves, to determine whether gaps between sexual minority and heterosexual youth have widened or narrowed for three different indicators of smoking: having ever smoked, early onset smoking, and daily cigarette smoking in the past 30 days.
We find that, though rates of smoking for all youth in Massachusetts have declined since the late 1990s, significant disparities remain between sexual minority and heterosexual youth.
Findings may suggest that targeted tobacco control programs in Massachusetts are needed; perhaps shifts in social attitudes toward smoking have affected smoking behaviors in diverse segments of society