A sample of over 1,000 Americans polled by Gallup at the beginning of July 2018, are shown to think that vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes and chewing tobacco, but view marijuana as the least harmful among the group.

When talking about the harm of the six products the results showed people thought:

  • cigarettes - 82% very harmful 14% somewhat harmful 2% not very harmful 1% not harmful
  • e-cigs or vaping - 38% very harmful 25% somewhat harmful 16% not very harmful 5% not harmful
  • marijuana - 27% very harmful 29% somewhat harmful 24% not very harmful 18% not harmful

When asked about using the six products:

  • cigarettes - 13% regular use 7% occasional use
  • marijuana - 5% regular use 8% occasional use
  • e-cigarettes - 2% regular use 7% occasional use
  • cigars - 1% regular use 8% occasional use
  • pipes and smokeless see less usage than cigars with under 5% occasional use

From Gallup - Americans Say Marijuana, Vaping Less Harmful Than Tobacco:


The poll marked the first time Gallup has tested the harmfulness of these products, apart from cigarettes', which has been measured annually since 2002, with the exception of 2009. There has been no significant variation in opinions over that time, as Americans have been in nearly universal agreement that cigarettes are very or somewhat harmful to users.


Gallup previously asked about frequency of use of four of the six products in 1996 -- cigarettes, pipes, cigars and chewing tobacco. Of the four, cigarettes are the only product that have shown a change in usage, with the percentage of regular users eight points lower this year than in 1996.

Bottom Line

The two most commonly used products of the six tested by Gallup -- cigarettes and marijuana -- are considered by the public to be the most and least harmful to users, respectively. Cigarette use continues to decline as nearly all Americans agree on the dangers of smoking and government regulation of the tobacco industry has increased in recent years. At the same time, marijuana legalization, both for medical and recreational uses, is on the rise and is broadly supported by Americans. As regulations tighten on cigarettes and loosen on marijuana, marijuana users could outnumber cigarette smokers in the U.S. Likewise, the public's perception of vaping as a less harmful alternative to cigarettes may lead to increased usage of vaping.

Perhaps this poll better shows the changing perceptions of marijuana as some states change laws to legalize the plant for recreational and medicinal purposes.

The results of the poll show that e-cigarettes are still viewed as somewhat or very harmful to about 80% of the general public but the group that needs to be worried about are regular and occasional cigarette smokers. 

If those individuals see vaping as harmful compared to cigarettes then they will more than likely remain smokers than convert to using an e-cigarette or other nicotine source.

Public perceptions about vaping have a long way to go to be reflective of the real relative harm vaping poses. If every vaper just talked to a few people about their experiences, attitudes could start to shift. 

Take marijuana for example, people have been subjected to all sorts of media propaganda for decades and people still get sent to prison in a number of states for possession but the plant is perceived more positively than vaping.