Ban on Smoking in Public Retains Majority Support in U.S.

Ban on Smoking in Public Retains Majority Support in U.S.

Ban on Smoking in Public Retains Majority Support in U.S.

The FINANCIAL -- A majority of Americans continue to believe smoking should be made illegal in all public places (58%), as they have since 2011. Forty-one percent are opposed to a total ban in public places.

The latest results come from Gallup's July 8-12 Consumption Habits survey, in which 19% of Americans report having smoked cigarettes in the past week, matching the historical low.

Research conducted in 2007 and in prior years showed a lower percentage of Americans in favor of making public smoking illegal, although changes in the survey since 2011 rule out a strict comparison of the two time periods, according to Gallup.

In a separate question, Gallup finds much less support for an outright ban on smoking. About one in four Americans (24%) say smoking should be made completely illegal. That is twice the level in 2007 and the highest ever found in Gallup surveys. Still, a large majority of Americans (76%) say smoking should not be made illegal, perhaps reflecting Americans' instincts against making behaviors totally illegal, or reflecting their doubts that such a ban would work in practical terms.

Women are a good deal more likely than men to say that smoking should be banned in public places or made illegal entirely. Among age groups, the older an American is, the more likely he or she is to support a ban on smoking in public places. But Americans of all ages are about equally as likely to support an outright ban.

Bottom Line

Cigarette smoking has been declining gradually in the U.S., from roughly 40% of U.S. adults reporting they smoke in the 1970s to barely 20% today. A solid majority of Americans have favored a total ban on smoking in public places in recent years, although only a minority are in favor of an outright ban on smoking nationwide.

According to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, as of July 2015, 24 states and the District of Columbia have smoke-free laws for non-hospitality workplaces, restaurants and bars, while 30 have smoke-free laws specifically for restaurants and bars. Municipalities, too, have taken measures to curb public smoking in other areas, such as parks and beaches. Notably, New York City banned smoking in many outdoor spaces, including Times Square.

As public officials have made great efforts to reduce smoking rates, secondhand smoke exposure and smoking-related litter, the public seems to be largely receptive to such measures while still supporting the right of a dwindling minority of Americans to light up, presumably in private.