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Survey: More Americans Smoke Pot Than Cigarettes

A new study shows that more Americans smoke marijuana than tobacco cigarettes. It is an important shift in America’s consumer habits.

The data, compiled as part of Gallup’s annual “Consumption Survey” and released last week, showed that only 11% of Americans reported themselves as cigarette smokers––a new low since the pollster first started asking the question in the 1940s.

Gallup reports that around 16% Americans are current marijuana smokers.

A pollster asked Americans for their current use of cannabis edibles. Only 14% responded.

The findings were foreshadowed by the previous decade, when dozens of states and cities ended the prohibition on pot and Americans turned away en masse from tobacco––often in favor of smokeless nicotine vapes that may or may not be safer.

In 2019, Gallup’s “Consumption Poll” found that only 15% of Americans reported as cigarette smokers, at the time a new low and substantially lower than the 45% of U.S. adults who said they were back in the 1940s. This poll found that just 12% Americans were marijuana smokers.

“Smoking cigarettes is clearly on the decline and is most likely to become even more of a rarity in the years ahead. Both the public’s awareness of these negative effects and ongoing efforts by government at all levels to reduce its usage reflect this. Smoking remains legal in general but is prohibited in many public places, offices, modes of transportation and in private places across the U.S. Each pack of cigarettes carries draconian warning messages about their harmful effects,” Gallup’s Frank Newport wrote in his analysis of the latest survey.

Cannabis has perhaps never been more accessible in the U.S. and pot smokers never more ubiquitous––despite the ongoing federal prohibition.

“Despite its widespread use, alcohol’s downsides have been recognized in the U.S. for centuries. This awareness reached a climax over a hundred years ago, when the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — passed by Congress and ratified by 46 of the 48 states — banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol. While the resulting Prohibition may have actually lowered the consumption of alcohol as intended, it had numerous other unanticipated negative consequences and was repealed some 13 years after it took effect,” Newport wrote.

Gallup’s findings from last year showed that 68% Americans think marijuana should be legal.

The country, however, is divided as to its effects.

In the latest “Consumption Poll,” 53% said that marijuana has a positive effect on its users, while 45% said it has a negative effect.

But when it comes to marijuana’s effect on society, 49% said it is positive, while 50% said it is negative.

Gallup’s latest survey found that alcohol remains far more prevalent than either marijuana or cigarettes. Around 45% reported having had an alcoholic beverage in the past week. 23% admitted to only occasionally drinking. One third of respondents said they abstain from alcohol completely.

“The future of alcohol drinking presents the most fascinating sociological case study out of the three substances. The alcohol use rate has remained steady for the last 80 years, which is how long Gallup measured it. In fact, alcohol has been widely used in the U.S. since the nation’s founding. Its use continues to be intertwined with many aspects of American culture, including social and — in some instances — religious rituals. Alcohol is also a major contributor to the nation’s economy. If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, then the best guess would be to predict no significant change in alcohol use going forward,” Newport wrote.