Gallup Asks Americans on Marijuana, Tobacco Use

Stephen Andrews
01 Sep 2022

A new poll reveals that an estimated 16% of Americans smoke cannabis compared to 11% who report being tobacco users. The survey findings align with global trends where cannabis goods currently enjoy greater popularity than tobacco products.

While we all knew that cannabis currently has the highest approval rate in U.S. history, now we also know that cannabis flower is more enjoyed than cigarettes among Americans. 

The regular use of marijuana among Americans is modestly higher than cigarettes at this point. Still, the more intriguing aspect perhaps is that the trend over the recent decades of marijuana use is significantly upward. 

Gallup, the U.S. analytics and consulting company, has been conducting surveys on cigarette and alcohol use for nearly a century. The marijuana use question was first introduced in the Gallup questionnaire in 1969, when only 4% of interviewees responded positively when asked if they had ever smoked weed. 

The 2022 survey suggests that an estimated 48% of Americans have tried pot at some point in their life. In 2013, seven percent of Americans self-reported to the pollsters that they currently smoke marijuana compared with the 16% measured this summer.

While there are all the indications to believe that cannabis use will continue to go up even more in the future, interest in tobacco has been going down steadily over the decades. Cigarette use is now less than a fourth of what it used to be in the 1950s when a whooping 45% of Americans reported being a smoker. 

However, of all "vices" American adults are much more indulged in alcohol than marijuana or cigarettes, the Gallup poll suggests. Alcohol consumption has remained relatively steady through time. In the late 1930s, an estimated 63% of Americans reported being drinkers, which is pretty close to the most recent score of 67%. 

Views of Marijuana Less Negative

In other polls, Gallup has also gauged Americans' views on smoking tobacco and marijuana's benefits to society. For example, Gallup research from 2019 indicates that a vast majority of Americans, or 83% of respondents, believe that smoking is "very harmful."

An even higher percentage, or 91% of all smokers interviewed, said in a 2015 poll they wish they had never started smoking. Seven in 10 smokers on average answer they wish they could stop smoking across several other surveys. 

While this paints a grim picture for tobacco, the views are less negative when it comes to marijuana. Slightly more than half of Americans say that marijuana's effects on those who use it are positive. However, the public is evenly split in their views of the plant's benefits for society: 49% consider marijuana to be a positive thing, and 50% as a negative. 

Personal experience with marijuana seems to be the most significant factor in forming an opinion on the medicinal plant. Therefore, an estimated 70% of users, including those who use cannabis occasionally or have used it only in the past, believe that pot effects on the user are positive. Around 66% also think marijuana has a beneficial impact on society. 

Contrarily, the majority of those who've never tried marijuana, or 62%, deem the effects to be negative, with 72% additionally saying the plant also has a negative societal impact. 

All summed up, although Americans are divided on whether marijuana benefits people or society, most of us still see pot as far more positively than either cigarettes or alcohol. Interestingly enough, despite the lack of consensus regarding how the public views cannabis, the legalization of cannabis continues to enjoy widespread support. This last sentiment, however, might be influenced by economic factors and the lucrative job opportunities the emerging cannabis industry has brought. 

Stephen Andrews