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Poll: Americans View Marijuana As Less Harmful Than Tobacco

According to a recent Gallup poll, most Americans believe that cannabis is safer to consume than tobacco.

A.J. Herrington

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Poll: Americans View Marijuana As Less Harmful Than Tobacco
Ivan Michailovich/ Shutterstock

A new Gallup poll has revealed that Americans believe that marijuana is far less harmful than most tobacco products. Results of the new survey were published by the research company on Wednesday.

Almost all of the respondents—96 percent—believed that cigarettes are harmful. Of those, 82 percent said that cigarettes are “very harmful.”  Fourteen percent said that cigarettes are “somewhat harmful.”

In contrast, 63 percent of those surveyed believe that marijuana is harmful. Twenty-seven percent believe marijuana is “very harmful,” while 29 percent believe it is “somewhat harmful.” Twenty-four percent believe marijuana is “not too harmful.” Another 18 percent said that they thought marijuana was “not at all” harmful.

Of those polled, 5 percent said they used marijuana on a regular basis. Another 8 percent said that they use pot occasionally.

Tobacco Products Fare Poorly

Those taking the poll were also asked for their perception of the harmfulness of four additional tobacco products. A majority of respondents said that cigars, chewing tobacco, and pipe tobacco were all “very harmful.”

Chewing tobacco, at 71 percent was viewed as the most harmful after cigarettes. Cigars followed at 56 percent while 52 percent believe smoking a pipe is “very harmful.” Vaping e-cigarettes was viewed as relatively safer, with 38 percent saying they are “very harmful.”

Cigarette Smoking Down

The survey also asked about respondents’ usage of tobacco products. Sixteen percent said that they had smoked a cigarette in the past week. That number is about one-third the figure recorded in the 1950s and about half the rate of the 1980s.

Young adults aged 18-29 showed the greatest drop in the rate of cigarette smokers. Since 2001, the rate of cigarette smoking by this age group has fallen by more than half. Over the past three years, 15 percent of young adults reported smoking in the previous week. That’s down from 34 percent in the early 2000s.

Meanwhile, the rate of smokers aged 30-49 dropped only eight percentage points over the same time period, from 28 percent down to 20 percent. Adults 50-64 reported a rate of smoking during 2016-2018, basically unchanged from 2001-2005.

These numbers show a reversal in the long-standing trend of smoking being more popular with young people than middle-aged and older Americans. Gallup offered some analysis that might explain the change in the incidence of smoking in young people.

“Many factors may be turning young Americans against cigarette smoking,” according to Andrew Dugan of Gallup. “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 stigmatizing 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,” Dugan added.

Gallup conducted the poll through telephone interviews with adults aged 18 and older held July 1-11. Respondents included residents of all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.

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