Americans see each of four tobacco-based products – cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars and pipes – as being much more harmful to people who use them than marijuana and e-cigarettes, commonly known as vaping, a Gallup poll has revealed. A second survey found that 16% of adults smoked a cigarette in the past week – the lowest level since 1944.
The July 1-11 poll found that Americans view all six of the products tested as harmful to varying degrees, writes Megan Brenan for Gallup.
Majorities of Americans say cigarettes (82%), chewing tobacco (71%), cigars (56%) and pipes (52%) are all very harmful, while fewer say the same of vaping (38%) and marijuana (27%).
Yet, when the somewhat harmful responses are factored in, all six products are considered harmful by majorities of Americans, with nearly all Americans viewing cigarettes (96%) and chewing tobacco (94%) this way. Seventy-three percent regard vaping as very or somewhat harmful, and 56% say the same about marijuana.
The poll marked the first time Gallup has tested the harmfulness of these products, apart from cigarettes, which has been measured annually since 2002, with the exception of 2009. There has been no significant variation in opinions over that time, as Americans have been in nearly universal agreement that cigarettes are very or somewhat harmful to users.
Of six products, cigarettes and marijuana used most often
Gallup research has found that Americans' use of cigarettes has fallen by half since the 1980s, when an average of 32% of adults said they had smoked a cigarette in the past week. Still, compared with the other products measured, cigarettes are used the most often by US adults, with 13% reporting regular use and 7% occasional.
The next most frequently used item on the list is marijuana, with 5% saying they use it regularly and 8% occasionally.
The other products tested – vaping, cigars, chewing tobacco and pipes – are each used either occasionally or regularly by less than 10% of Americans.
Gallup previously asked about frequency of use of four of the six products in 1996 – cigarettes, pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco. Of the four, cigarettes are the only product that have shown a change in usage, with the percentage of regular users eight points lower this year than in 1996.
The two most commonly used products of the six tested by Gallup – cigarettes and marijuana – are considered by the public to be the most and least harmful to users, respectively.
Cigarette use continues to decline as nearly all Americans agree on the dangers of smoking and government regulation of the tobacco industry has increased in recent years.
At the same time, marijuana legalisation, both for medical and recreational uses, is on the rise and is broadly supported by Americans. As regulations tighten on cigarettes and loosen on marijuana, marijuana users could outnumber cigarette smokers in the US.
Likewise, the public's perception of vaping as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes may lead to increased usage of vaping.
In US, smoking rate hits new low at 16%
Sixteen percent of US adults say they smoked a cigarette in the past week, by one percentage point the lowest level on record since Gallup first asked this question in 1944, writes Andrew Dugan for Gallup.
These latest data come from a July 1-11 Gallup poll.
In 1944, 41% of US adults said they smoked; this figure held steady for the next several decades, even after the federal government warned the public in the early 1960s that smoking was a health threat.
At the start of the 1970s, four in 10 Americans still reported smoking, but by 1977, the rate had fallen to 36%. Twelve years later, in 1989, the smoking rate fell below the 30% mark for the first time. However, over the next two decades the smoking rate was relatively stable with about a quarter of Americans saying they smoked.
In the late 2000s, smoking levels began to slowly drop again, when many cities and states started passing public smoking bans. In 2013, the percentage of Americans who smoked fell below 20% for the first time, where it has remained for four out of the five years since, including this most recent reading of 16%.
Young adult smoking rate fallen by half 2001
Smoking rates among young adults, those aged 18-29, have declined most dramatically since 2001. Over the past three years, 15% of adults aged 18-29 say they smoked a cigarette in the past week, compared with the 34% who said so in the early 2000s.
By contrast, smoking rates among Americans aged 30-49 have fallen by eight percentage points over this time period and, among older Americans, have essentially not budged.
Notably, the two middle-aged categories are now slightly more likely than their younger counterparts to say they smoke – reversing the long historical association between smoking and age.
For much of the time Gallup has tracked the US smoking rate, the youngest adults were the most likely of any age cohort to light up regularly. But since around 2011, young Americans have been about as or less likely to smoke than the next two oldest age categories.
While smoking among US adults has fallen considerably since the 1970s – and hit a low again this year – the decline has been most striking among 18- to 29-year-olds, at least in the last 20 years.
Young adults are now slightly less likely than their middle-aged compatriots to actively smoke, a result that runs contrary to the historical association between smoking and youth.
Many factors may be turning young Americans against cigarette smoking.
Though public anti-smoking campaigns were well established by the time this age cohort came along, many of these young adults came of age when public smoking bans became more commonplace throughout the country. These bans may have made smoking seem like a more stigmatising behavior, while older adults remembered a time when indoor smoking was more common. For instance, a 2015 Gallup poll found that 18- to 29-year-olds are the most likely of any age group to say they have an "unsympathetic" view of smokers.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted from 1-11 July 2018, with a random sample of 1,033 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cell phone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
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