The following is an excerpt from Gallup News.
Gallup has been asking Americans about their attitudes toward cigarettes and alcohol since the 1930s and 1940s, and, in more recent decades, has added similar questions about marijuana. One purpose of these continuing surveys is to update estimates of these substances' frequency of use.
- Alcohol is by far the most used of the three. About 45% of Americans have had an alcoholic drink within the past week, while another 23% say they use it occasionally. A third are "total abstainers." Alcohol use has remained relatively constant over the years. The average percentage of Americans who have said they are drinkers since 1939 is 63%, quite close to Gallup's most recent reading of 67%.
- Some 16% of Americans say they currently smoke marijuana, while a total of 48% say they have tried it at some point in their lifetime. Marijuana use (based on self-reports) has increased dramatically over the past half-century. Only 4% said they had ever tried marijuana in 1969, when the question was first asked. That's now 48%. Seven percent of Americans said they currently smoke marijuana in 2013, compared with the 16% measured this summer.
- Cigarette smoking incidence has dropped steadily over the decades, from a high of 45% in the mid-1950s. Today, a new low of 11% of American adults report being smokers. Roughly three in 10 nonsmokers say they used to smoke.
In sum, American adults are significantly more likely to use alcohol than either marijuana or cigarettes. And while alcohol consumption has remained relatively constant over the decades, cigarette use is now less than a fourth of what it was in the 1950s.
Americans' regular use of marijuana is modestly higher than cigarettes at this point, but the trend over recent decades in marijuana use is upward.
Read full analysis of polling results here.
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