In Our Recreational Substances of Choice, a Big First

11% of US adults tell Gallup they smoke cigarettes; pot smokers surpass that for first time, with 16%
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 30, 2022 10:24 AM CDT
In Our Recreational Substances of Choice, a Big First
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/agafapaperiapunta)

In the mid-1950s, nearly half of US adults copped to smoking cigarettes. After decades of PSAs and warnings from the medical community on the dangers of smoking, it's probably not surprising that that figure has plummeted to just 11%—and it's now been surpassed by Americans who say they smoke pot. According to Gallup's annual consumption poll conducted July 5-26, 16% of respondents say they smoke marijuana, the first time that drug has surpassed cigarettes as smokers' substance of choice. Of those polled, 48% say they've tried pot at least once; in 1969, when Gallup first asked that question, only 4% answered in the affirmative.

Smoking cigarettes, meanwhile, continues to fall out of favor. In 2019, 83% of Gallup respondents said they believed smoking was "very harmful," with another 14% calling it "somewhat harmful." Four years earlier, more than 90% of smokers surveyed said they wished they'd never lit up that first cigarette way back when. "Smoking cigarettes is clearly on the decline and is most likely to become even more of a rarity in the years ahead," Dr. Frank Newport, Gallup's senior scientist, tells NPR, citing "public awareness of its negative effects and continuing government efforts at all levels to curtail its use."

Forbes notes that the number of those dabbling in cannabis consumption has only increased as more places in the United States ease related laws, and Gallup's latest poll shows 68% of respondents think marijuana should be legal. Still, those surveyed on marijuana's effect on society are pretty evenly split, with 49% saying it's had a positive effect and 50% saying negative. Both pot and ciggies, however, still bow down before a more consistently popular substance in Americans' eyes: alcohol. Gallup found that 67% of American adults say they're drinkers, meaning only one-third of those surveyed are claiming they're teetotalers. (More marijuana stories.)

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