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Ban on Smoking in Public Retains Majority Support in U.S.

Ban on Smoking in Public Retains Majority Support in U.S.

Story Highlights

  • Most Americans say smoking in public places should be outlawed
  • One in four Americans say smoking should be illegal entirely
  • Women more likely than men to support smoking bans

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A majority of Americans continue to believe smoking should be made illegal in all public places (58%), as they have since 2011. Forty-one percent are opposed to a total ban in public places.

Recent Trend on Americans' Views of Smoking in Public Places

The latest results come from Gallup's July 8-12 Consumption Habits survey, in which 19% of Americans report having smoked cigarettes in the past week, matching the historical low.

Research conducted in 2007 and in prior years showed a lower percentage of Americans in favor of making public smoking illegal, although changes in the survey since 2011 rule out a strict comparison of the two time periods.

In a separate question, Gallup finds much less support for an outright ban on smoking. About one in four Americans (24%) say smoking should be made completely illegal. That is twice the level in 2007 and the highest ever found in Gallup surveys. Still, a large majority of Americans (76%) say smoking should not be made illegal, perhaps reflecting Americans' instincts against making behaviors totally illegal, or reflecting their doubts that such a ban would work in practical terms.

Should smoking in this country be made totally illegal, or not?

Women are a good deal more likely than men to say that smoking should be banned in public places or made illegal entirely. Among age groups, the older an American is, the more likely he or she is to support a ban on smoking in public places. But Americans of all ages are about equally as likely to support an outright ban.

Views on the Legality of Smoking, by Gender and Age

Bottom Line

Cigarette smoking has been declining gradually in the U.S., from roughly 40% of U.S. adults reporting they smoke in the 1970s to barely 20% today. A solid majority of Americans have favored a total ban on smoking in public places in recent years, although only a minority are in favor of an outright ban on smoking nationwide.

According to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, as of July 2015, 24 states and the District of Columbia have smoke-free laws for non-hospitality workplaces, restaurants and bars, while 30 have smoke-free laws specifically for restaurants and bars. Municipalities, too, have taken measures to curb public smoking in other areas, such as parks and beaches. Notably, New York City banned smoking in many outdoor spaces, including Times Square.

As public officials have made great efforts to reduce smoking rates, secondhand smoke exposure and smoking-related litter, the public seems to be largely receptive to such measures while still supporting the right of a dwindling minority of Americans to light up, presumably in private.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 8-12, 2015, with a random sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

For results based on the sample of 507 national adults in Form A, the margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 502 national adults in Form B, the margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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