According to studies, more Americans now want legal cannabis than legal tobacco, indicating a significant cultural shift from the time when smoking cigarettes was permitted almost everywhere and weec was prohibited everywhere.
Fifty-seven percent of American adults would favor “a policy restricting the sale of all tobacco products,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in a research brief last month.
According to a Pew Research survey done in October, a somewhat bigger majority, or 59%, say cannabis should be legal for both medical and recreational use. Another 30% support cannabis use exclusively for medical purposes. Just 10% of Americans think weed should be completely illegal.
According to the CDC, tobacco is the biggest cause of preventable death. The findings support the rising general agreement that cannabis is way less dangerous than cigarettes. Research has shown that cannabis is less addictive than tobacco and that cannabis smoke is less damaging to the lungs.
A national cigarette ban is not anticipated by public health professionals any time soon. Instead, they hope the growing anti-tobacco attitude will lead to federal regulation that will make cigarettes less appealing to young people and less addictive.
Adam Goldstein, professor and director of tobacco intervention programs at the University of North Carolina medical school, stated that he was unaware of any peers who supported a tobacco ban. “We went down that road with alcohol,” he remarked, alluding to the nation’s failed 1920s experiment with Prohibition.
Since the adoption of state laws in Colorado and Washington in 2012 legalizing cannabis for recreational use, there has been a notable rise in popular opinion toward the herb in recent years.
The decline of tobacco use in society has been more gradual. The majority of the country accepted cigarettes as innocuous, nonaddictive, and socially acceptable throughout the Eisenhower 1950s. In 1966, when the first cautionary notes started to appear on cigarette cartons, two-fifths of Americans were smokers.
In the 1970s, the first bans on smoking in public were introduced. Air travel and smoke-free restaurants were introduced in the 1980s. States outlawed smoking in bars, restaurants, and other public places throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The Food and Drug Administration classified nicotine as a medicine in 1995.
Except for Wyoming, all states now forbid smoking in some or all public areas and workplaces. Cigarettes are subject to excise taxes in every state, and sales to those under 21 are forbidden by federal law.
Nonetheless, tobacco is still permitted in every state. Contrarily, cannabis is still banned under federal law.
A move that might help the business promote education and safety and erase its lingering Wild West reputation, legalizing and regulating cannabis is something that supporters and researchers blame the federal government for failing to do.
Michael Sofis, director of research at Cannabis Public Policy Consulting, a company that helps with states, said: “That lack of action is incredibly concerning. He expressed worries about a number of things, including how difficult it is to obtain federal money for cannabis research.
State by state, the federal ban on cannabis is being relaxed. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, just three states—Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska—remain places where marijuana is still completely prohibited. Recreational cannabis use is now permitted in 21 states plus the District of Columbia. 37 states recognize medicinal marijuana use, while ten additional states allow low-potency marijuana derivatives.
“I believe that medical marijuana will soon be legal in all states,” Goldstein said.
Around 1996, when California became the first state to legalize cannabis for medical use, marijuana’s public image began to improve. Just before the introduction of recreational cannabis, societal support for legal marijuana increased from 25% in 1995 to 50% in 2011. In the most recent Gallup poll, conducted in 2022, 68 percent of Americans supported marijuana legalization.
Public opinion is still far from unanimity even today. Just 50% of Republicans and conservatives support full legalization, suggesting ongoing opposition from the law enforcement sector. Young adults, liberals, and Democrats all support legalizing marijuana.
The majority of people are beginning to support medical marijuana. Even those who are ethically opposed to marijuana often struggle with the question of fundamental compassion, according to Morgan Fox, political director of the nonprofit advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
With legalization, public support for cannabis has increased proportionately: Due to how widespread legalized cannabis is, many Americans support its legalization.
Of course, just because cannabis is generally legal does not mean it is risk-free. Many studies have discovered both beneficial and bad health consequences, and considerable research is still needed to comprehend the implications fully.
Cathy Callaway, senior director of state and local campaigns at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, claimed that far more research and scientific study had been conducted on cigarettes than on cannabis.
In reverse, the rise of cannabis reflects the fall of cigarettes in American culture.
According to a Gallup survey, more than 40% of Americans smoked up to the early 1970s. The percentage of smokers has decreased to 11% by 2022.
According to Gallup data, support for smoking prohibitions in public areas increased from 40% to 60% during the mid-2000s.
A slightly lower share of the public, roughly 20 percent, told Gallup pollsters that smoking should be “completely outlawed” in a 2021 survey.
In their study, which was also carried out in 2021 and was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, CDC researchers discovered significantly more support for cigarette bans.
Respondents were questioned about their support for a “policy to outlaw the sale of all tobacco products.” 57 percent of respondents indicated that they would “somewhat” or “strongly” support such legislation.
The majority of Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, including men and women, young and old, college graduates and high school dropouts, support a tobacco ban, according to CDC experts. “Can inform federal, state, and municipal efforts to outlaw all tobacco product sales, including menthol cigarettes,” they concluded.
State and local governments in America are not rushing to outlaw tobacco. Instead, a large portion of the national conversation focuses on flavored tobacco products because of the idea that cigarettes and e-cigarettes with mint and menthol flavors tempt kids to smoke.
According to the non-profit Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, several states and more than 360 localities have restricted or outright banned flavored tobacco products.
The Los Angeles suburbs of Beverly Hills and Manhattan Beach are the only two cities that completely ban cigarette sales.
The Biden administration has taken action to capitalize on growing anti-tobacco sentiment by regulating nicotine levels and prohibiting menthol cigarettes, the latter of which is intended to make smoking less addictive.
According to a Gallup poll, reducing the amount of nicotine in cigarettes is supported by three-quarters of Americans, while banning menthol is less popular.
After decades of opposition, the tobacco industry has finally conceded that cigarettes are addictive and deadly. But, the businesses objected to the menthol restriction and clarified that they would be against nicotine caps.
“We certainly know that the general public is supportive of tobacco-control policies,” Callaway said. “And we also know that the tobacco industry is going to fight us every step of the way.”