by Abigail Quackenboss
On Tuesday, March 18, we asked our Votifi users which of the following they believed is worse for one’s health: alcohol, tobacco, sugar, or marijuana. Want to take a guess which option received the least votes? Hint: it’s not legal for recreational use in 48 states.
We got a lot of great discussion on the question, which is absolutely fantastic. Some comments addressed the idea that marijuana “doesn’t cause enough deaths to even get noticed.” Other comments pointed to the legality of alcohol, tobacco, and sugar. Still others pointed to the deaths as an indirect result of alcohol, sugar, and tobacco.
The inspiration for this question came from a poll a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that asked the very same question. WSJ/NBC found that 49% of poll respondents said tobacco was most dangerous, followed by alcohol (24%), sugar (15%), and marijuana (8%). Part of me wonders if we had the same sample. (Don’t be throwing my daily polls, please!) <— That’s a joke. Anyway, our results are below.
So what do we make of these results? There are a few ways to address the poll. The first stems from the comments we received in conjunction with follow-up questions by the WSJ/NBC poll. As a nation, we are very aware of the effects tobacco, alcohol, and sugar can have on our health. Tobacco and alcohol aren’t even sold without warning labels!
The second way to examine the data is that marijuana isn’t typically associated with health complications. A study published by Forensic Science International, did, however, link two deaths to marijuana. Note: These men also had underlying health issues. What we are not aware of is how heavy marijuana itself is associated with health problems. (That’s not to say there aren’t associations between marijuana use and increased risk of certain health problems.) A 20-year study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham suggested that heavy marijuana use might decrease lung function, but does not carry some of the risks tobacco does.
Finally, and I think this is one of the biggest takeaways, marijuana might be losing its social stigma. More states are approving medicinal marijuana. Maryland’s state house delegation passed a bill last week. The Colbert Report even talked about Colorado’s “booming marijuana industry.”
While there are a number of other issues to address, such as UN laws, if marijuana is so lucrative, there might come a time (perhaps in the near future) when marijuana is legalized across the country. For now, we’ll just take our poll results as they are. Votifi users believe there are more harmful substances out there than marijuana.