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Americans Say Marijuana, Vaping Less Harmful Than Tobacco

Americans Say Marijuana, Vaping Less Harmful Than Tobacco

Story Highlights

  • Of six products asked about, cigarettes considered most harmful to users
  • Marijuana, vaping seen as much less harmful
  • Cigarettes used most regularly, by 20%; marijuana by 13%

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans see each of four tobacco-based products -- cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars and pipes -- as being much more harmful to people who use them than marijuana and e-cigarettes, commonly known as vaping.

Bar graph: Americans' Views of Tobacco Products and Other Substances. High: Cigarettes (82% very harmful). Low: Marijuana (27% very harmful).

The July 1-11 Gallup poll found that Americans view all six of the products tested as harmful to varying degrees. Majorities of Americans say cigarettes (82%), chewing tobacco (71%), cigars (56%) and pipes (52%) are all very harmful, while fewer say the same of vaping (38%) and marijuana (27%). Yet, when the somewhat harmful responses are factored in, all six products are considered harmful by majorities of Americans, with nearly all Americans viewing cigarettes (96%) and chewing tobacco (94%) this way. Seventy-three percent regard vaping as very or somewhat harmful, and 56% say the same about marijuana.

The poll marked the first time Gallup has tested the harmfulness of these products, apart from cigarettes', which has been measured annually since 2002, with the exception of 2009. There has been no significant variation in opinions over that time, as Americans have been in nearly universal agreement that cigarettes are very or somewhat harmful to users.

Of Six Products, Cigarettes and Marijuana Used Most Often

Gallup research has found that Americans' use of cigarettes has fallen by half since the 1980s, when an average of 32% of adults said they had smoked a cigarette in the past week. Still, compared with the other products measured, cigarettes are used the most often by U.S. adults, with 13% reporting regular use and 7% occasional. The next most frequently used item on the list is marijuana, with 5% saying they use it regularly and 8% occasionally.

Bar graph: Americans' Use and Views of Tobacco Products and Other Substances. High: Cigarettes (20% use regularly/occasionally). Low: Pipes (4% use regularly/occasionally).

The other products tested -- vaping, cigars, chewing tobacco and pipes -- are each used either occasionally or regularly by less than 10% of Americans.

Gallup previously asked about frequency of use of four of the six products in 1996 -- cigarettes, pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco. Of the four, cigarettes are the only product that have shown a change in usage, with the percentage of regular users eight points lower this year than in 1996.

Bottom Line

The two most commonly used products of the six tested by Gallup -- cigarettes and marijuana -- are considered by the public to be the most and least harmful to users, respectively. Cigarette use continues to decline as nearly all Americans agree on the dangers of smoking and government regulation of the tobacco industry has increased in recent years. At the same time, marijuana legalization, both for medical and recreational uses, is on the rise and is broadly supported by Americans. As regulations tighten on cigarettes and loosen on marijuana, marijuana users could outnumber cigarette smokers in the U.S. Likewise, the public's perception of vaping as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes may lead to increased usage of vaping.

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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