The arrival of a new year represents a turning point for many people, and an opportunity to make long-awaited changes in their lives. While perhaps only 8% of people will stick to these resolutions, lots of folks still express a great interest in cultivating healthy habits, like eating better, exercising more, or giving up certain substances. It’s common to hear people committing to quitting smoking, drinking, or drugs. But how many people are intent on reducing their substance use – or, surprisingly, even using more? To find out, we headed to Twitter.

Methodology

We examined a random sampling of Tweets from the weeks before and after the new year – 200,000 Tweets for 2012-2013, and 1 million Tweets for 2013-2014. Inspecting a sample of 500 Tweets, we looked for common slang and phrases pertaining to tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana in order to assign Tweets to these categories. For instance, to assign Tweets such as "Need to light one up more with the boys #newyearsresolution" to the marijuana category, we added "light one up" to the search criteria for marijuana. To assign Tweets such as "Stop drinking liquor #resolutions" to the alcohol category, we added "liquor" and other related words such as "whiskey," "vodka," and "bourbon" to the search criteria for alcohol.

Although we initially aimed to track the comparative popularity of such resolutions, we found that there was a staggering number of Tweets talking about resolving to smoke more marijuana or drink more alcohol. For this reason, we looked at another sample of 500 tobacco-, alcohol-, or marijuana-related Tweets to determine how to sort these Tweets into categories of "more", "less", and "stop". Once we applied these filters to the tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana categories of Tweets, we were able to compare how many Tweets in each of these categories and across both years were about consuming more or less of these substances.

Marijuana

In both 2013 and 2014, a surprising number of people resolved to smoke more weed compared to those who resolved to smoke less. Although 37% of marijuana-related resolutions in our 2012-2013 sample were about quitting weed or smoking less, a substantial 21% were about smoking more. Around the 2013-2014 New Year, this trend accelerated sharply: this year, only 27% of marijuana resolutions were about quitting or smoking less, whereas 34% were about commitments to smoke more.

Within only a year, the landscape of marijuana-related resolutions has effectively reversed itself – it is now significantly more common for people to resolve to use more weed rather than less. This could be reflective of both a recent shift in public opinion and an accompanying shift in legal approaches toward cannabis in the past year.

Drinking

Unlike in the case of marijuana, a clear majority of Tweets about alcohol were about resolving to drink less, both in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014. These remained relatively constant from year to year: in 2012-2013, 36% of alcohol-related resolutions were about drinking less, and only 11% were about drinking more.

This trend persisted into the 2013-2014 season, where 35% of resolutions in this category were about drinking less compared to merely 13% about drinking more. This is a notable contrast to the prevailing attitudes toward marijuana - substantially fewer people are openly planning to drink more in the year ahead, regardless of the comparative legal statuses of alcohol and marijuana.

Smoking

Among resolutions about substance use, tobacco was far and away the most common subject of resolutions to quit - moreso than both marijuana and alcohol. This trend persisted throughout both seasons. In 2012-2013, only 7% of smoking-related resolutions were about committing to smoking more, while an overwhelming 64% were about smoking less.

And in 2013-2014, the commitment to quit only increased: 68% now resolved to smoke less, compared to a steady 7% who said they would smoke more. Nearly 10 times more people resolved to quit smoking than those who aimed to smoke more. This suggests a wide awareness of tobacco as an undesirable, unhealthy, or unenjoyable habit - no other substance in our study had as many people resolving to use it less, or as few people resolving to use it more.

New Years Resolutions

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