Cannabis use among young adults is now more than twice as common as cigarette use, according to a new Gallup report.
This new report breaks down data from a poll on tobacco and cannabis smoking that Gallup published this summer. In its initial survey, the agency found that overall tobacco consumption rates in America had dropped to a record low of 11%, down significantly from the record high of 45% seen in the mid-1950s. At the same time, self-reported cannabis consumption has been rising steadily, topping out at a record high of 16% over the past three years.
Gallup's new deep dive reveals that these changing trends are largely driven by adults between the ages of 18 and 29. The total percentage of young tobacco smokers has fallen steadily since the turn of the century. Between 2001 and 2003, 35% of young adults said they smoked cigarettes in the past week, the highest percentage of any age group. From 2019 to 2022, that total fell to 12%, making young adults the second-least likely demographic to smoke tobacco.
And as cigarette usage in this age group has fallen, cannabis use has skyrocketed. In the 2013-15 survey, only 17% of young adults said they smoked weed. That total climbed to 21% in the following three-year period, and hit a record high of 26% in the most recent survey. In contrast, only 15% of 30-49 year olds, 10% of 50-64 year olds, and 3% of those 65 or older said that they smoked up on the regular.
As a whole, 27% of survey respondents said that they smoked or vaped tobacco or cannabis regularly. Seven percent said they only smoke weed, 9% only smoke cigarettes, and 3% vape tobacco exclusively. Broken down by demographics, 40% of young adults admitted to smoking or vaping, nearly four times the number of senior citizens who said the same. But 11% of young adults said they smoke weed exclusively, while just 3% said that they only smoke cigarettes.
“Public health officials would be encouraged by the steep decline in cigarette smoking over the past two decades, a trend driven largely by plummeting smoking rates among young adults,” Gallup wrote. “But young adults are increasingly smoking marijuana, perhaps because it is now legal to use in a growing number of states, and vaping. Both vaping and marijuana are more common activities for young adults than traditional cigarette smoking.”
These findings suggest that young adults may be more focused on health than older generations, at least when it comes to smoking. The serious health consequences of tobacco combustion are now well-understood, and even though cannabis smoke does pose some health risks, researchers have discovered that smoking weed is far less risky than smoking cigarettes.
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