Only a quarter of Britons consider cannabis ‘very harmful’ to regular users, according to a new survey from YouGov. More than half, however, consider tobacco to be very harmful, while 35 per cent think the same for alcohol.
Just under 1,700 respondents were asked to rate 12 different substances from ‘very harmful’ to ‘not at all harmful’, with nitrous oxide considered the second least harmful of all. Just under a quarter of people, meanwhile, thought that making a drug illegal was ‘an effective way of preventing people from taking it’, with 60 per cent stating that it was ineffective. Roughly the same proportion of Conservative and Labour voters – at 60 and 67 per cent respectively – considered criminalising drugs ‘futile for prevention’, says YouGov.
Just under 30 per cent of people thought that drugs should be considered a health issue, compared to a quarter who thought it should be a criminal justice issue, while 36 per cent believe it should be treated as both. Less than 10 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds believe it should be solely a criminal matter, however, compared to a third of over-65s. People were also asked to class the substances in terms of their impact on wider society, with crack cocaine and heroin considered the most harmful and nitrous oxide and cannabis the least.
The figures ‘highlight the extent to which the government’s rhetoric and policies are out of touch with the public’s will in several key areas’, said Volteface’s Isabella Ross. ‘Home secretary Priti Patel’s proposed nitrous oxide ban appears particularly detached from popular perceptions of the drug. The survey found that Britons considered nitrous oxide less harmful both to regular users and society than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco.’