This study examined the extent of tobacco industry funding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisations and whether leaders of these organisations thought tobacco was a priority health issue for their community. We interviewed leaders of 74 LGBT organisations and publications in the USA, reflecting a wide variety of groups. Twenty-two percent said they had accepted tobacco industry funding and few (24%) identified tobacco as a priority issue. Most leaders did not perceive tobacco as an issue relevant to LGBT identity. They saw smoking as a personal choice and individual right rather than as a health crisis fuelled by industry activities. As such, they were reluctant to judge a legal industry, fearing it might lead to having to evaluate other potential funders. They saw tobacco control as divisive, potentially alienating their peers who smoke. The minority who embraced tobacco control saw the industry as culpable and viewed their own roles as protecting the community from all harms, not just those specific to the gay community. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender tobacco-control advocates should reframe smoking as an unhealthy response to the stresses of homophobia to persuade leaders that tobacco control is central to LGBT health.