Are Americans Really Smoking More Cannabis Than Cigarettes?

According to a new Gallup poll, Americans reported smoking more marijuana than cigarettes, making this the first time it has surpassed cigarette smoking. The poll revealed that 16% of Americans smoke marijuana, while only 11% report smoking cigarettes — an all-time low. Gallup Senior Scientist Dr. Frank Newport said in the report that this indicated that cigarette smoking, which has been in decline for some time, will continue to become rarer in the years ahead.

The rise in Americans smoking more cannabis comes in the wake of more states legalizing recreational marijuana. In the meantime, government campaigns against cigarettes remain in full force, prompting the decline in cigarette smoking. In a 2019 Gallup poll, 83% of Americans expressed the opinion that cigarette smoking was "very harmful" to adults who smoke. 

Despite the increase in cannabis smoking, alcohol is the top go-to substance and has remained constant over the years. In 1939, 63% of Americans identified themselves as drinkers, while the most recent Gallup data showed that 67% of Americans drink alcohol. It is worth noting that, while the rate of alcohol drinkers remains approximately the same, the population has increased roughly two and half times since the 1940 census. This suggests that more Americans are drinking alcohol today, per the United States Census.

Is smoking cannabis safe?

According to the American Lung Association, smoking cannabis is a dangerous activity due to the risks it poses to your lung health. This includes all variations of cannabis smoking, such as paper-wrapped marijuana cigarettes (blunts), bongs, and pipes, along with any other device that creates vapor or heat that you inhale. The decline in regular cigarette smoking notwithstanding, inhaling marijuana impacts your lungs with many of the same toxins and carcinogens as regular cigarettes. In fact, because marijuana smoking typically involves a deeper inhale and holding the smoke in your lungs, smoking marijuana can create an even greater tar build-up compared to smoking cigarettes.

A 2013 study published in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society revealed that one possible condition that you can develop when smoking marijuana is chronic bronchitis due to ciliary loss. Cilia are the hairlike projections in your lungs that help remove debris and mucus, meaning that smoking marijuana can increase mucus in your airways. Additionally, the study showed that marijuana smokers are at an increased risk of developing pneumonia. That being said, the researchers note that the benefits derived from smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes may outweigh these risks.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).