Two recent Gallup surveys revealed that more Americans (16 percent) said they smoked cannabis in the past week than those who said the same about tobacco (11 percent). While that five percentage difference may seem like no big deal, it’s notable because it’s the first time Gallup has ever reported more cannabis than tobacco users in America.
Harry Enten, writing an analysis for CNN, brought attention to this change. He called it a “big changing-of-the-guard moment.” For those who lived through the War on Drugs that started in the 1970s, the change seems astonishing.
The surveys’ numbers culminate a trend that started earlier this century as states began to legalize cannabis, starting with Colorado and Washington. Part of that trend also has been the widespread realization that the War on Drugs was a failure.
A new Gallup survey on marijuana also revealed that a majority (53 percent) of Americans believe that marijuana use is good for those who partake.
Younger Generations Changing Attitudes
Almost every survey done on cannabis reveals huge differences in opinion depending on the person’s generation. The new Gallup survey provided similar splits.
For example, 49 percent of all respondents said cannabis is beneficial for society. However, that number became much higher among young people. Among respondents between the age of 18 and 34, 62 percent said marijuana is beneficial to society. That number fell to 53 percent among 35 to 54 year olds, and 37 percent among those 55 and older.
Democrats also proved more likely to see the benefits of cannabis, with 60 percent saying cannabis benefits society. Among Republicans, 64 percent said cannabis has a negative impact.
How Many Americans Have Tried Marijuana?
The percentage of Americans who have tried cannabis is also on the upswing. In 1969, only 4 percent of Americans said they had ever even tried cannabis. In the new survey, that number reached almost half of the population – 48 percent.
Meanwhile, tobacco use continues to fall. A second Gallup survey from July 2022 found that 11 percent of Americans had smoked a cigarette in the past week. That’s a huge drop from the 40 percent who said the same in 1969. And in 1954, almost half of all Americans (45 percent) said they had smoked tobacco in the past week.
As late as 2005, a quarter of those surveyed had smoked in the past week. While a slow, steady drop in tobacco use has persisted the past few decades, the drop from 16 percent in 2021 to 11 percent in 2022 ranks as the highest single year drop in tobacco use since the one between 1998 (28 percent) and 1999 (23 percent).
That’s good news for health and wellbeing, especially in a country with an aging population. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that “cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States.”