The federal government is spending over $33,000 to figure out whether same-sex couples live closer to tobacco retailers, theoretically making them more likely to smoke.
A National Institutes of Health (NIH) project, entitled, "Relationship Between Tobacco Retailer Density and Sexual Minority Couples," reasons that since many gay and lesbian couples live in cities, they may be close to stores that sell cigarettes, such as 7 Elevens.
"Tobacco use is substantially higher among sexual minorities than among heterosexuals," the grant states. "The reasons for this persistent disparity remain unclear, but the high toll of death and disability from tobacco use creates substantial health inequalities in cancer."
"Same-sex couples' movement within the U.S. results in same-sex couples concentrating in more urban neighborhoods where there may be more tobacco retailers," the grant continued. "Living near a tobacco retailer has been associated with decreased success in quitting tobacco. The presence or absence of overlapping patterns of same-sex couples and tobacco retailers have not been explored."
The $33,341 study is cross-checking a "high quality list" of nearly 100,000 tobacco retailers from 97 U.S. counties with census data to determine whether same-sex couples live nearby.
"Sexual minorities are more likely to use tobacco products than heterosexuals," the grant said. "The reasons for this disparity are unknown; however, where people live and their proximity to tobacco retailers can influence decisions to quit smoking."
"This study examines overlapping patterns of tobacco retailers and same-sex couples to examine the potential role of tobacco retailer density in sexual minority tobacco disparities," it added.
Joseph Lee, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is leading the project.