- Rate of marijuana use (12%) nearly matches cigarette smoking (15%)
- Percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes is at a 75-year low
- One in four Americans have smoked or vaped in the past week
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ cigarette use continues to decline, hitting a new low in Gallup’s 75-year trend. Currently, 15% of U.S. adults say they have smoked cigarettes in the past week, in marked contrast to the 45% who reported doing so in the 1950s. At the same time, 12% of Americans now say they smoke marijuana and 8% say they have vaped in the past week.
Gallup updated Americans’ smoking behavior in its annual Consumption Habits poll, conducted July 1-12.
Today’s reading for cigarette smoking is similar to the 16% recorded last year, but down from 19% as recently as 2016. The 12% of U.S. adults who answered yes to the question “Do you, yourself, smoke marijuana?” is consistent with the 11% to 13% range Gallup has found since 2015, but slightly higher than the 7% reporting this in 2013.
This is the first time Gallup has asked Americans about vaping “in the past week,” but the 8% reporting that they have is similar to the percentage last year who said they vape regularly or occasionally.
One in Four Americans Engage in Some Form of Smoking
Altogether, 27% of U.S. adults polled in the recent survey report smoking at least one of these three ways — smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana or vaping.
However, only 1% report engaging in all three. It is more common to find people who engage in two of the three types: A total of 8% either smoke cigarettes and marijuana (4%), smoke marijuana and e-cigarettes (2%) or smoke cigarettes and e-cigarettes (2%).
As noted, there is some crossover between cigarette smoking and vaping. Looked at differently, 34% of vapers say they also smoke cigarettes. However, most vapers do not smoke cigarettes, including 39% who classify themselves as former cigarette smokers (39%) and 28% who say they have never smoked cigarettes.
Demographics Differ for the Three Types of Smoking
Cigarette smoking is strongly correlated with education and income, whereby the higher a person is on each scale, the less likely they are to smoke cigarettes. Also, adults younger than 30 are among the least likely age groups, along with seniors, to smoke cigarettes. They are also the only group more likely to smoke both marijuana and e-cigarettes than to smoke regular cigarettes.
Use of e-cigarettes is mainly a function of age: 19% of adults younger than 30 report they have vaped in the past week, versus 8% of 30- to 49-year-olds, 3% of 50- to 64-year-olds and less than 1% of seniors.
E-cigarette use is also related to education, with college graduates less likely to partake than those without a college degree. Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are not strictly the domain of lower-income Americans, but are used about equally across the income spectrum.
Marijuana use largely transcends socio-economic boundaries, except that far fewer postgraduates use it compared with all other education groups. It is more popular with the 20-something age category than all others. However, marijuana use drops off less sharply by age than does use of e-cigarettes. It remains above 10% among those aged 30 to 64, only falling to single digits among the 65-and-older set.
Gallup finds no significant gender difference in smoking of cigarettes or use of e-cigarettes. But the latest poll does find that more men (15%) than women (9%) say they smoke marijuana.
Americans’ Smoking Habits in 2019
|Smoke cigarettes||Use e-cigarettes ( vape)||Smoke marijuana|
|College graduate only||9||5||13|
|Percentages shown are those who say they have smoked cigarettes in the past week, those who have used e-cigarettes (vaped) in the past week and those who say they “smoke marijuana,” respectively|
|Gallup, July 1-12, 2019|
The once commonplace habit of cigarette smoking has dwindled to the point that fewer than one in seven Americans smoke. And although smoking has long been associated with lower socio-economic groups, smokers are now an exceedingly rare breed among upper-income and highly educated Americans. College-educated Americans may be more familiar with the health risks of smoking, and this may contribute to a greater stigma around smoking in high socio-economic status communities.
But perhaps more significant for the future of the tobacco industry is that — even with recreational use of marijuana legal in only 11 states — higher percentages of young people report smoking marijuana and vaping than say they smoke traditional cigarettes. This contrasts with adults over 30, who remain more likely to be cigarette smokers than vapers or marijuana users. Most of these older Americans would have developed their smoking habit before vaping and marijuana were as readily available as they are today. But now that young people have those options, the future of U.S. tobacco sales looks more tenuous.
How these patterns evolve may depend on the regulatory environment around e-cigarettes, as well as ongoing trends in the production and sale of marijuana-based products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently acquired authority to regulate e-cigarettes and is giving companies until May 2020 to submit applications to continue selling their products. While e-cigarette companies argue they offer a safer alternative to tobacco — and in that sense provide a public health benefit — regulators are fixed on curbing the rise in youth vaping and could shut down sales altogether over this concern.
Meanwhile, legalization of marijuana is on a roll at the state level, and could eventually earn federal support. At the same time, the explosion in the sale and use of hemp-based CBD oil could strip marijuana of some of its medical appeal, while the mass legalization and production of marijuana could hamper its social appeal.
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