PRINCETON, NJ -- For the first time since Gallup Inc. began polling Americans about smoking laws a decade ago, a majority of U.S. citizens now supports a comprehensive smoking ban, according to the organization's new poll.
That's nearly double the 39% who favored a total public ban on smoking in 2001. The greatest growth in support for a comprehensive public ban has occurred in the past four years, Gallup said.
Yet Gallup said only 19% today want cigarette sales to become illegal. Currently 22% of Americans smoke, down from 45% in the mid-1950s, the public opinion researcher found.
Gallup said it did not ask Americans this year about bans on smoking in specific venues such as restaurants, bars, hotels and workplaces. However, data on such policies from Gallup's research last July show that, when given the options of a total ban, setting aside certain areas for smokers, or no restrictions at all, Americans are generally less likely to choose the total ban and more likely to select the "set aside" idea.
The one exception to this pattern was restaurants, in which Americans favor a total ban on smoking. Gallup said it's possible that the broad question about making smoking totally illegal in public places would produce different results if the option for setting aside areas for smokers had been included.
According to the American Lung Association, 27 states and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws. A New York City law bans smoking in virtually all public places, including outdoor plazas and beaches.