According to a new Wall Street Journal x NBC News survey, people think that sugar, alcohol, and tobacco are more harmful than cannabis.
The question posed was this: If you had to choose just one, which one of these four substances—alcohol, marijuana, sugar or tobacco—would you say is most harmful?
Of the 900 respondents, 41% said tobacco; 24% said alcohol; 21% said sugar, and just 9% said marijuana.
Perhaps some of them saw the Marijuana Policy Project “new beer” ad. In it, the group highlights the relative safety of cannabis compared to alcohol, with the added bonus of having no calories, no hangovers, and no violence associated with its consumption.
Tobacco is the apparent frontrunner. We’ve been subjected to the gruesome effects of smoking cigarettes, and even chewing the stuff, for years. Canada was the first to implement pictorial health warnings on cigarette packages in June 2001. And who could forget Barb Tarbox, the lifelong smoker dying of brain and lung cancers who became the poster woman for the consequences of smoking?
Alcohol becomes a touchy subject because as much harm it’s done to at least one person in all of our lives, it’s still such a prevalent force. It’s the impetus for catching up with old friends, celebrating life victories, and getting us out on a Sunday morning for brunch with a side of bottomless mimosas. Booze is a civilization tightrope that, as dangerous as we know it is, we cling to with the strength of every last toe.
Sugar is becoming more and more demonized by the day. It picked up six percentage points (15 to 21) in the four years since the question was posed in the 2014 survey. Try searching “book about sugar” these days and you get fewer cookbooks and more along the lines of Gary Taubes’ “The Case Against Sugar,” and Robert Lustig’s “Fat Chance: The Hidden Truth About Sugar, Obesity and Disease.”
The more we discover about our various vices and what makes them so enticing, the clearer we get about the real risks of using them—exclusively and comparatively. And if only nine percent of Americans feel like marijuana is genuinely the most harmful in the bunch, then we might get to see the end of Reefer Madness in our lifetime after all.
Alana seeks to see cannabis from the perspective of politicians, advocates, entrepreneurs, and consumers. She got her start with a byline in the arts and culture section and crossed over into cannabis after using it medicinally. Current projects include investigations into cannabis and wellness; entrepreneurs of the Green Rush; cannabis for athletes; and the evolution of cannabis laws and culture in Canada.