Truth Comes Out: Adults See Alcohol, Tobacco Riskier Than Pot


Graphic: OC NORML

‚ÄčAmericans view alcohol and cigarettes as more dangerous than marijuana. Tellingly, even a majority of adults who drink alcohol rate it as riskier than pot. Those who never drink alcohol are more evenly divided.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey released this week found that a scant 17 percent of American adults rate use of marijuana as riskier than drinking alcohol. Fifty percent say alcohol is more dangerous, while 26 percent rate the two as equally risky.
Similarly, 46 percent say smoking cigarettes is more dangerous than smoking pot. Twenty-four percent disagree, saying marijuana is more dangerous than tobacco. One in four, 25 percent, say tobacco and alcohol are equally dangerous.

Although progress is definitely being made in adults not seeing marijuana as a dangerous drug, there is still a disquieting amount of disinformation and misunderstanding around the issue.
Think about it: Since marijuana has never caused a single overdose death in history, whereas alcohol causes about 50,000 deaths a year and tobacco about 450,000 deaths annually — and since both legal substances are physically AND mentally addictive, but marijuana has virtually no withdrawal symptoms — then wouldn’t close to 100 percent of a reasonably well-informed public see alcohol and tobacco as far riskier than pot? 
It also seems that some Americans haven’t learned their lessons about the folly of prohibition. Twenty-six percent of adults saying smoking cigarettes should be outlawed, while 42 percent think marijuana should remain illegal.
Americans are evenly divided over whether marijuana should be legalized in the United States, but most expect legalization to happen within the next decade.
Men feel more strongly than women that both alcohol and cigarettes are more dangerous than marijuana. Adults across all age groups share that belief, although younger Americans believe it even more strongly (which points to a bright future for marijuana in the United States).
When it comes to alcohol, 20 percent of Americans drink several times a week, including nine percent who drink every day or nearly every day. Twenty-seven percent report they are teetotalers, never drinking at all.
Forty percent of American adults say they have smoked marijuana at some point in their lives. Eleven percent say they’ve smoked pot in the past year.
Ages 18 to 29 are much more likely to have smoked marijuana in the past year than their elders. Hey man, don’t blame me; I’m doing my part.
Unsurprisingly, men drink more heavily than women. Twice as many married adults say they drink every day than unmarried adults, but unmarrieds are more than twice as likely as marrieds to have smoked pot in the past year.
Those who say they’ve smoked marijuana drink more than those who have not tried pot.
The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted July 21-22, 2010 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.
The findings are consistent with a survey taken last August.
Editor’s note: Thanks to Toke of the Town reader Adam Colbert for bringing this survey to our attention!