Cannabis Over Cigarettes: Young Americans Smoking Fewer Cigarettes, More Cannabis

A new survey from Gallup shows that the number of young American adults who smoke cigarettes has dropped by 23 percent, meaning fewer young Americans smoke than do older Americans.

The survey also found young Americans more likely to choose cannabis over cigarettes. While only 12 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 say they smoke cigarettes, 26 percent say they smoke marijuana. The survey also found an increased number of young Americans prefer vaping to smoke cigarettes.

“Both vaping and marijuana are more common activities for young adults than traditional cigarette smoking,” the Gallup survey stated. That’s a tremendous shift in public opinion, especially among young Americans, in the last two decades. Choosing cannabis over cigarettes is also a good sign for overall public health.

A Steep Drop Off in Cigarette Use

The drop in cigarette smoking, which has declined steadily for decades, fell sharply in the 21st century. Those under 30 once belonged to the group most likely to smoke a cigarette. Now, they are the second least-likely to smoke cigarettes, with rates higher only than the oldest Americans.

Use rates also have dropped across the board. For example, in 2001, the percentage of people by age group who said they smoked a cigarette in the last week were as follows.

  • 18-29 year olds – 35 percent
  • 30-49 year olds – 28 percent
  • 50-64 year olds – 23 percent
  • 65 and up – 14 percent

In 2022, those numbers changed significantly. In descending order by the age group that smokes the most, they are as follows.

  • 50-64 year olds – 18 percent
  • 30-49 year olds – 17 percent
  • 18-29 year olds – 12 percent
  • 65 and up – 8 percent

Those numbers are all trending in the right direction in terms of health. Cigarette smoking remains the highest preventable cause of death in the United States, leading to an estimated 480,000 deaths per year (deaths from secondhand smoke included).

Marijuana Use Increases for All Americans

The Gallup numbers show that more people are choosing cannabis over cigarettes. While cigarette use has dropped among all age groups, especially among young adults, the use of cannabis has increased.

Among young adults, the number who said they smoke cannabis increased from 17 percent to 26 percent. Among those 30 to 49 years old, cannabis use increased from 9 percent to 15 percent, while those between 50 and 64 saw an increase from 6 to 10 percent. Older Americans remained about the same, moving from 2 percent to 3 percent.

Taken together, the numbers show that the youngest Millennials and oldest members of Generation Z are more than twice as likely to use cannabis as they are to smoke cigarettes.

A separate Gallup poll found that, for the first time, more Americans admitted to smoking cannabis or eating edible than those who said they had smoked a cigarette in the last week.

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