Americans Prefer Legal Cannabis Over Tobacco, Pew Survey Confirms Ongoing Trend & Societal Shift

A Pew Research survey showed that Americans prefer legal cannabis over legal tobacco, a societal shift that should come as no surprise to anyone who has not been living under a rock for the past several years. 

The survey indicated that 59% of American adults believe marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use, while 30% approve of cannabis exclusively for medical use. By contrast, the CDC, which views tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death, reported last month that only 57% of American adults would support “a policy prohibiting the sale of all tobacco products.” No surprise there either.

The recent Pew study upholds an August 2022 Gallup poll that found more Americans (16%) said they smoke marijuana than had smoked a tobacco cigarette (11%) in the past week.

Another Societal Shift

Another shift occurred over two decades ago when bans on indoor cigarette smoking began taking hold across the U.S. and Europe. 

While every state but Wyoming restricts indoor smoking in most or all public places, pointed out The Hill, tobacco remains legal in every state. Cannabis, on the other hand, is still illegal under federal law. Though after the 2022 midterms, cannabis is now legal in some form in the majority of US states while still entirely illegal in three.

Ongoing Trend Driven By Young People: Tobacco Down, Cannabis Up

The weed vs. tobacco usage trends have been moving in opposite directions for a while now. In 1985, nearly as many Americans said they had tried marijuana (33%) as had smoked a cigarette in the past week (35%), according to Gallup. Tobacco smoking has been trending down ever since. A decade ago, just 19% of Americans were smoking cigarettes at least once a week while 38% said they’d tried marijuana that year.

The trend toward more marijuana smoking is, not surprisingly, driven by young people. The National Institutes of Health reported in August 2022 that more young adults used marijuana in 2021 than in any year prior.

In a November 2022 Gallup poll, 26% of people between 18 and 29, said they smoke cannabis, up from 17% in 2015.

More than twice as many young adults now say they smoke marijuana as smoke cigarettes. Cannabis smoking is also more common among young adults than vaping.

“Public health officials would be encouraged by the steep decline in cigarette smoking over the past two decades, a trend driven largely by plummeting smoking rates among young adults,” Gallup’s analysis said at the time. 

Photo: El Planteo

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