Gallup: People Who Go to Church Regularly Smoke Less

By Michael W. Chapman | August 5, 2013 | 4:45 PM EDT

(AP Photo)

( – People who go to church at least once a week are far less likely to smoke than those who seldom or never go to church, according to a new Gallup poll, which also found that smoking is highest “among Americans who have no formal religious identity” and that it is possible “the act of smoking in some way causes people to be less religious.”

The survey also noted that smokers suffer from more negative emotional health than nonsmokers, and that being a highly religious nonsmoker is associated with a “higher wellbeing” while being nonreligious and smoking is associated with “lower wellbeing.”

In the nationwide, year-long survey of 353,571 people in all 50 states and the District of Colmbia, Gallup found that for people who go to church “at least once a week,” 88% are nonsmokers while only 12% are smokers.

From there, the numbers gradually decline in a linear fashion. For people who attend church “about once a month,” 78% are nonsmokers and 22% are smokers; “seldom” attend church, 75% nonsmokers and 25% smokers; and “never” attend church, 70% nonsmokers and 30% smokers.

Holy Bible and cross. (AP)

Gallup noted several demographic characteristics, such as age – smoking decreases with age while church attendance increases—and gender – men are more likely to smoke but are less likely to attend church.

The survey also said that when it comes to marriage, “smoking is lower among married Americans, while church attendance is higher.”

The analysts said that “religiosity remains a significant predictor of smoking” but “doesn’t establish causality.”

The surveyors also said “it is possible that the act of smoking is some way causes people to be less religious.”

This could occur because smokers are ostracized. “It is also possible that the relationship is straightforward,” said the poll. “Something about frequent church attendance could in turn cause people to be less likely to smoke. One explanation for this could center on religious doctrine and training. A number of religions have formal or informal constraints on smoking, and presumably those who are most adherent to those religions, as measured by church attendance, would be less likely to smoke.”

The poll found that Mormons, for example, were the least likely to smoke:  92% are nonsmokers and 8% smokers. For Jews, 90% are nonsmokers and 10% smokers; Catholics, 82% nonsmokers, 18% smokers; and Protestants/Other Christians, 80% nonsmokers, 20% smokers.

(AP Photo)

The statistics for Protestants matched the average smoking rate for adults in the United States, which is 20% smokers.

Muslims smoke at a higher rate than the national average, according to the poll – 23% are smokers and 77% are nonsmokers.

People with no religious identity had the highest smoking rates: 26% smokers and 74% nonsmokers.

“The smoking rate is highest among Americans who have no formal religious identity,” said the poll.

The survey, in its implications section, said that “smoking is generally related to a whole host of negative emotions,” including “more stress, worry, depression, anger, and sadness” than nonsmokers.

At the same time, research shows that “religiosity itself is associated with positive wellbeing measures,” said the survey. “Thus, the connection between smoking and being less religious follows a predicted pattern. Being highly religious and not smoking are charcteristics associated with higher wellbeing, while being nonreligious and smoking are associated with lower wellbeing.”

Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman
Michael W. Chapman

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