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Well-Being

One in Four Americans Support Total Smoking Ban

by Justin McCarthy
One in Four Americans Support Total Smoking Ban

Story Highlights

  • 25% of U.S. adults support an outright smoking ban
  • Support remains much higher for a ban on smoking in public places (59%)
  • Public smoking ban popular among all groups

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One in four U.S. adults say that smoking should be made totally illegal in the U.S. -- the highest percentage to date, by one point. The measure had previously garnered between 11% and 24% support over the nearly three decades that Gallup has been tracking it.

Line graph: Americans' views on a total U.S. ban on smoking, 1990-2018 trend. 2018: 25% favor total ban, 74% opposed.

The latest data are from a July 1-11 Gallup poll.

Though bans on smoking in restaurants and other select places have become increasingly common in municipalities and countries worldwide, Bhutan in South Asia is the only country in the world where the sale and production of tobacco is prohibited outright, and places where one can smoke are difficult to find. Overall, Americans remain largely opposed to a total ban, but support has edged upward, particularly in recent years.

There is much greater agreement among Americans on banning smoking in public places. Gallup has found a consistent level of majority support for this since 2011, ranging from 55% to 59%. This comes as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development prepares to enforce a smoking ban in all public housing across the country -- a policy that was enacted two years ago but goes into effect at the end of this month.

Line graph: Americans' views on smoking bans in public places, 2011-2018 trend. 2018: 59% favor ban, 40% oppose it.

Majorities Across Demographic Groups Agree on Smoking Ban in Public Places

Majorities of Americans across demographic groups support a ban on smoking in public.

Meanwhile, support for a wholesale ban on smoking nationwide remains a distinct minority position across all key subgroups, with the highest found among Democrats and liberals (33% each).

Views on Bans by Group -- Public Places Ban vs. Outright Smoking Ban
Public places Totally illegal
% %
18 to 34 52 22
35 to 54 58 28
55 and older 66 27
College graduates 67 17
College nongraduates 55 29
Republicans/Republican leaners 54 17
Democrats/Democratic leaners 66 33
Conservatives 55 23
Moderates 62 22
Liberals 60 33
Men 57 21
Women 62 29
Gallup, July 1-11, 2018

Bottom Line

It may surprise some that Americans' support for bans on smoking in public places has not expanded since 2011. Bans on smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces had already become commonplace in over half of the states and the District of Columbia by early 2011, and some might assume that the implementation of such bans would have caused Americans, because of their familiarity with them, to become more supportive.

But it's possible that the question's reference to "all public places" suggests a more expansive ban than many Americans are willing to endorse. In New York City, for example -- where residents are already not allowed to smoke in certain outdoor areas -- a city councilman has introduced a bill that would ban people from smoking while walking on sidewalks.

A total ban on smoking is even harder for Americans to take in. Support for it is on the higher side of the 28-year trend, but it falls well short of a majority. Though many acknowledge the negative health effects, that doesn't mean they are prepared to ban smoking outright. Americans may be generally averse to totally banning things (including abortion and handguns) and may also recognize the challenges and repercussions of a nationwide ban on a legal substance -- with Prohibition's banning of alcohol a prominent historical example.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted July 1-11, 2018, with a random sample of 1,033 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.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 70% cellphone respondents and 30% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

View survey methodology, complete question responses and trends.

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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