People Officially Love Weed More Than Cigs in 16 Cities Across the US, Survey Says
Portland and Seattle residents love weed way more than they love nicotine, and so do most Californians.
Published on February 6, 2023

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Cannabis products are way more popular than cigarettes in 16 major US markets, according to a recent survey by market research giant Nielsen. 

Nielsen's recent survey set out to explore smoking trends in 83 different US markets. Pollsters asked adults 18 or older to anonymously report whether they had used cannabis flower, THC edibles, cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or vapes in the past 30 days. Traditionally, addictive nicotine products have remained far more popular than cannabis, but now that adult-use weed is legal in nearly two dozen states, the tables have turned.

According to the survey, a greater percentage of people living in 16 of these 83 markets said they used cannabis than those who said they used tobacco in the past month. And given that the West Coast is the birthplace of the US legalization movement, it's no surprise that residents of these states tend to prefer weed to cigarettes. 

Hazy Portland takes the crown for the largest margin between pot and tobacco. Nearly 21% of Portlanders said they got high in the past month, over 8% more than those who said they smoked or vaped nicotine products. The nearby Seattle/Tacoma market area comes in at a close second. Nielsen says 19.5% of people in this market area smoked, vaped, or ate weed in the past month, compared to 12.6% who used tobacco. 

Similar margins were observed in many major California markets, as well. Twenty percent of Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto area residents owned up to getting high, 5.5% more than those who used nicotine. About 14 to 16% of LA, San Diego, and Bay Area residents also said they smoke weed, beating out the 10 to 12% of residents who used tobacco products recently.

There are a few weed-loving cities outside of the West Coast, though, too. Over 18% of Denver area residents said they have gotten lit recently, about 5% more than those who keep puffing cancer sticks. The margin of cannabis to tobacco users is also about 1.5% higher in Las Vegas, another city with a thriving adult-use industry.

Residents of prohibition states in the American Southeast are far more likely to stick to old-fashioned tobacco products, though. About a quarter of survey respondents living in the Charleston-Huntington, West Virginia, and Knoxville, Tennessee markets said they smoked or vaped nicotine in the past month, much higher than the percentage who used cannabis products. The greatest margin was seen in Knoxville, where tobacco had a 17% lead over weed.

There are still a couple of spots that don't exactly fit the legalization trend, though. Over 17% of people in the Providence/New Bedford region of Rhode Island said they got high, about 1.5% more than the percentage of tobacco users. Rhode Island has legalized cannabis sales, but adult-use products were not available for sale when the poll was conducted. And in Salt Lake City, weed is just as popular as tobacco, even though Utah has only legalized medical marijuana.

Lots of other surveys have also found that cannabis is becoming much more popular than tobacco. A recent Gallup poll found that only 11% of Americans still smoke cigarettes, fewer than the 14% who eat weed edibles or the 16% who smoke bud regularly. Several other recent polls have found that young adults are now twice as likely to use cannabis as they are to smoke cigarettes. Public opinions on smoking have also changed: 74% of Americans believe that cannabis is safe, but over 80% acknowledge that cigarettes are “very harmful.” 

Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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