Legal Cannabis Is More Popular Than Legal Tobacco With Americans
Surveys show that more Americans now want legal cannabis than legal tobacco. This is a big change from the days when smoking cigarettes was legal almost everywhere and smoking pot was illegal everywhere.
In a research brief released last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that 57 percent of American adults would be in favor of a policy that would ban the sale of all tobacco products.
A Pew Research survey done in October found that 59 percent of people think that marijuana should be legal for both medical and recreational use. Another 30% are okay with it only being used for medical purposes. Only 10% of the people in the United States think that marijuana should not be legal at all.
The results show that more and more people agree that cannabis is safer than tobacco, which the CDC says is the leading preventable cause of death. Studies have shown that marijuana is less addictive than cigarettes and that marijuana smoke is less harmful to the lungs. However, doctors warn that cannabis still has many possible health risks.
Experts in public health don’t think there will be a nationwide ban on tobacco any time soon. Instead, they hope that rising anti-smoking feelings will lead to federal rules that make cigarettes less addicting and less appealing to young people.
Adam Goldstein, a professor and director of tobacco intervention programs at the University of North Carolina medical school, said, “I don’t know anyone in my peer group who supports banning tobacco.” “We went down that road with alcohol,” he said, referring to the failed attempt to ban alcohol in the 1920s.
ALSO READ: In Yet Another State, Voters Voted Against Legalizing Marijuana. Is The Movement In Trouble?
People’s views on marijuana have changed a lot in recent years. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states to make it legal to sell marijuana for recreational use.
Less people are giving up tobacco, but it’s taking longer. In the 1950s, when Eisenhower was president, most of the country saw cigarettes as harmless, not addicting, and socially acceptable. In 1966, when the first warnings were put on cigarette packs, 20% of Americans smoked.
In the 1970s, smoking was first made illegal in public places. In the 1980s, restaurants became smoke-free and people began to fly on planes. During the 1990s and 2000s, many states made it illegal for people to smoke in restaurants, bars, and other public places. The Food and Drug Administration said that nicotine is a drug in 1995.
Today, all states except Wyoming have laws that make it hard to smoke in public places and workplaces. Cigarettes are taxed by excise in all states, and federal law says that they can’t be sold to people under 21.
But every state still lets people smoke. Cannabis, on the other hand, is still against federal law.
Advocates and researchers blame the federal government for not following the states’ lead and legalizing and regulating cannabis, which they say could help the industry promote education and safety and get rid of its Wild West image.
ALSO READ: The Legalization of Marijuana Has Made Significant Regression
Michael Sofis, who is in charge of research at Cannabis Public Policy Consulting, a group that works with states, said, “That inaction is a big problem.” “It’s almost impossible to get federal funding for cannabis research,” he said as one of his worries.
The national ban on cannabis is being broken down one state at a time. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, marijuana is still against the law in Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska. Cannabis has been made legal for recreational use in 21 states and the District of Columbia. 37 states allow medical marijuana, and 10 more states let people use low-potency versions of marijuana.
“I think that all states will have medical marijuana in a short amount of time,” Goldstein said.
The public’s view of marijuana began to change around 1996 when California became the first state to make medical marijuana legal. The percentage of people in society who wanted marijuana to be legal doubled from 25% in 1995 to 50% in 2011. This was right before marijuana became legal for recreational use. In 2022, when Gallup did its last poll, 68 percent of Americans said they wanted marijuana to be legal.
Even now, people don’t all agree on the same things. Only half of conservatives and Republicans want full legalization, which shows that law enforcement is still against it. Liberals and Democrats, as well as most young adults, are in favor of making cannabis legal.
Nearly everyone agrees that medical marijuana should be legal. “Even people who are morally against marijuana usually have to deal with the issue of basic compassion,” said Morgan Fox, the political director of the non-profit advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
With legalization, the public’s opinion of cannabis has risen quickly: Many Americans support legalizing cannabis because it is already legal in many places.
Even though cannabis is legal in most places, that doesn’t mean it’s completely safe. Waves of studies have found both good and bad effects on health, and there is still a lot of work to be done to fully understand its effects.
“Much more science and research has been done on tobacco than on cannabis,” said Cathy Callaway, senior director of state and local campaigns at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
In America, the decline of tobacco is like the rise of cannabis, but backward.
Gallup polling shows that more than 40% of American adults smoked up until the early 1970s. By 2022, only 11 percent of people in the world smoked.
As people’s support for legal cannabis has grown, their support for free tobacco has decreased.
Gallup data shows that support for smoking bans in public places has gone from about 40% to 60% since the middle of the 2000s.
In a Gallup survey from 2021, only about 20% of the public said they thought smoking should be “totally illegal.”
In their survey, also done in 2021 and published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, CDC researchers found that people were much more likely to agree with bans on tobacco use.
The people surveyed were asked if they would agree with a “policy to ban the sale of all tobacco products.” Fifty-seven percent said they would support such a measure “somewhat” or “strongly.”
Researchers from the CDC found that most men, women, young people, old people, college graduates, and people who didn’t finish high school supported a ban on tobacco. This was true for people of all races and ethnicities. They came to the conclusion that the results “can help federal, state, and local efforts to ban the sale of all tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes.”
The city councils and state legislatures of the United States are not all in a hurry to ban tobacco. Instead, most of the national debate is about flavored tobacco products, like cigarettes and e-cigarettes with mint and menthol flavors that might make kids want to smoke.
The non-profit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says that several states and more than 360 cities and towns have limited or banned flavored tobacco.
At least two cities, Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach, which are suburbs of Los Angeles, have banned tobacco sales completely.
The Biden administration has tried to take advantage of the growing anti-smoking sentiment by banning menthol cigarettes and limiting the amount of nicotine in cigarettes. The latter move is meant to make smoking less addicting.
Gallup polls show that three-quarters of Americans agree that the amount of nicotine in cigarettes should be lowered, while the ban on menthol has less support.
After fighting against the idea for decades, the tobacco industry now agrees that cigarettes are dangerous and addicting. But the companies have spoken out against the ban on menthol and made it clear that they will also fight nicotine caps.
“We know for sure that most people agree with policies to stop people from smoking,” Callaway said. “And we also know that the tobacco industry will fight us at every turn.”