A recent poll shows that more Americans prefer cannabis over cigarettes. But alcohol is still #1.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, more Americans now readily admit that they prefer smoking THC-rich cannabis or eating cannabis-infused edibles to smoking cigarettes. The poll also found that the use of cannabis in the United States is at an all-time high, increasing by a third in just one year.
This result is even more eyebrow-raising because cannabis is still federally prohibited and illegal in many states, with some carrying potentially stiff jail times. Yet, at the same time, tobacco remains perfectly legal in all fifty states.
Additional poll findings included:
16% of Americans say they currently smoke THC-rich cannabis.
11% of American adults report being smokers.
14% of Americans also admitted to consuming cannabis edibles for the first time.
The use of cannabis by Americans has increased dramatically over the past half-century. In 1969, only 4% admitted to ever trying it when asked. That number has now ballooned to 48%. Conversely, in the 1950s, 45% of Americans admitted to smoking cigarettes. That figure is now down by 75%.
"Smoking cigarettes is clearly on the decline and is most likely to become even more of a rarity in the years ahead. This reflects both public awareness of its negative effects and continuing government efforts at all levels to curtail its use," Gallup Senior Scientist Dr. Frank Newport said.
"Smoking cigarettes is clearly on the decline and is most likely to become even more of a rarity in the years ahead. This reflects both public awareness of its negative effects and continuing government efforts at all levels to curtail its use."
- Gallup Senior Scientist Dr. Frank Newport
A slightly more baffling discovery was the answer many of those polled gave concerning the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol is by far the most widely used recreational substance in the U.S., despite the broad acknowledgment of its damaging health consequences. According to that identical Gallup Poll, 45% of respondents said they had consumed an alcoholic beverage in the past week, while 67% admitted to occasional alcohol use.
However, another Gallup survey found that more than twice as many Americans feel that THC-rich cannabis positively impacts its consumers and society than express the same sentiment regarding alcohol.
This finding is consistent with the results of another March poll that found more Americans think it would be a good idea for people to switch to cannabis over alcohol compared to those who believe substituting it for liquor would be a bad idea.
Yet the pollsters can't seem to nail down a consistent feeling from Americans regarding alcohol consumption versus cannabis. For example, a 2020 Gallup survey showed that 86% of Americans view alcohol use as morally acceptable, compared to 70% who said the same about cannabis consumption.
The answer to why Americans consume the recreational substances they do is as individual as the American Spirit itself. Alcohol has been a part of American culture since its genesis, with many of the Founding Fathers having their own breweries and vineyards. Yet, many also produced hemp as a vital part of their agribusinesses.
Then, a little over a hundred years ago, the United States attempted to outlaw alcohol via the 18th amendment because of liquor's widely accepted negative impacts on its citizens and society. But that experiment failed miserably not because alcohol and its effects changed but because the demand for its consumption outweighed all other concerns.
It's a head-scratching contradiction. Yet, Americans continue to drink alcohol while recognizing that its use can have negative consequences.
That same 2020 Gallup survey concluded that almost two-thirds of those who use alcohol still say its effect is harmful to those who use it, while 71% of drinkers say alcohol has a negative impact on society.
So, it's clear that Americans recognize the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes. Consequently, smoking has declined significantly over the past half-century, and we can expect it to continue on this downward path. It's also evident that the attitude of Americans towards cannabis is shifting to a more positive and accepting viewpoint as more and more states legalize its production and consumption and the benefits of its use become more apparent.
Concerning alcohol, the future is a little murkier and uncertain. While it's evident that Americans have a dichotomous relationship with liquor and its overall positive versus negative impact on individuals and society, it doesn't appear to be losing its hold as the number one American recreational substance of choice.
But, if the federal ban on cannabis is lifted and attitudes toward alcohol begin to mirror those currently diminishing the impact of cigarette smoking, we may eventually see a day where it supplants alcohol as the number one option for American consumption.