The NHS Smoking Helpline is calling on gay and bisexual men to stub out their cigarettes after a survey revealed that their habit is well above the national average.

A study carried out amongst gay and bisexual men for the NHS Smoking Helpline has found that 41 per cent of gay and bisexual men are smokers, rising to 60 per cent for 25 to 34 year olds, well in excess of the national average of 25 per cent.

While health risk messages seem to be getting through loud and clear – 91 per cent of respondents know that quitting will improve their health – nearly a third have never tried to give up, the research found.

It also seems that the vast majority don’t actually enjoy their habit, overwhelmingly confirming that they “dislike stale tobacco breath” (77 per cent) and “dislike the smell of tobacco on clothes” (74 per cent).

When it comes to choosing a partner, smoking also proves to be a big turn off – even for other smokers. Nearly two thirds confirm that smoking makes people look less attractive, with nearly half actually preferring not to kiss a smoker.

The survey also throws up the interesting figure that half of those questioned see smoking as “a prop for masculinity.”

NHS Smoking Helpline advisor Kirsty Reid said: “There seems to be a large overlap between the number of gay and bisexual men who smoke, and those who actually dislike it. This suggests that the smokers want to give up their habit, but maybe can’t face going “cold turkey” – but the good news is that all sorts of help and support is available, to suit all lifestyles. We are urging all smokers to call us on 0800 169 0 169 for a free and confidential chat to explore the different ways the NHS can help”

Commenting on this findings, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “It is sad that half of gay men see smoking as masculine, and that the desire to be seen as macho apparently encourages some of them to take up the cigarette habit. Smoking isn’t cool or masculine; it’s just plain filthy.”

The sample was selected at random amongst Gay/Bisexual men. 540 interviews were conducted anonymously by telephone by The Survey Shop over the period August 18 to the September 8 2006.

The NHS estimate that 12,000 gay men die from smoking related diseases every year, much more than die from HIV/AIDs.

All enclosed public places and workplaces in the UK will become smokefree from 1st July 2007 under the country’s smoking ban.