THE lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is increasingly being targeted by drinks promotions in bars and clubs and by alcohol companies, according to new research.

Concerns were raised that alcohol was found to be a central part of a night out on the commercial scene for LGBT people, with fears that this is being exploited by drinks manufacturers.

Many of those surveyed as part of the Glasgow Caledonian University research described drinking heavily when they first came out to have the confidence to go out on the gay scene.

People were then expected to drink more heavily on the scene than they would in straight bars or clubs as they grew older.

The report noted: “Entry into the alcohol-fuelled commercial gay scene was perceived as a necessary rite of passage, a way to gain acceptance and, by some, as an important part of LGBT identity.”

Several people told researchers they noticed a greater number of drinks promotions on offer at LGBT bars and clubs than at mainstream venues, such as scantily-dressed staff selling cheap shots off trays.

Previous research has found people identifying as lesbian, gay and bisexual are one and half times more likely to be at risk of alcohol dependence than heterosexual people.

Frequenting bars and clubs was said to be more common among the LGBT community because of the more limited options to socialise and the lack of spaces where they felt comfortable expressing their identities.

Marginalised groups, particularly bisexual and transgender people, might also drink more, the study said, because they often suffer from isolation and double discrimination.

The report’s authors believe work now should focus on how alcohol companies market their products to the LGBT community, both physically in venues and also on social and traditional media.

Dr Carol Emslie, the study's lead researcher and a senior lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “Drinking is central to the commercial gay scene and the alcohol industry is increasingly marketing their products directly to LGBT consumers - for example the sponsorship of gay pride in the UK and USA and how a lot of vodka brands, in particular, promote themselves as gay friendly.

"We need to make sure there are more places in Scotland where LGBT people can meet to socialise without alcohol, as well as working towards a culture where all groups in society find it acceptable to drink moderately, or indeed to choose not to drink at all.”

A number of barriers to LGBT people accessing alcohol support groups and services, including facing discrimination or a lack of understanding, were raised by respondents to the study.

There were concerns existing services, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, were aimed at straight white men, so did not feel safe or welcoming to LGBT people.

Another issue was a fear that GPs and other health professionals may jump to incorrect assumptions about LGBT lifestyles.

Eric Carlin, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), said: “LGBT people are as susceptible to getting into problems with alcohol as anyone else.

"However, this study shows that many LGBT people still feel stigmatised and support services can feel intimidating. Hopefully, this report will provide useful insights to reduce barriers to LGBT people accessing support.”

The study by academics at Glasgow Caledonian University was funded by SHAAP and the findings will be presented at the Scottish Parliament next week.