More people think cannabis should be legal than tobacco

A new study has found that over half of young people think cannabis should be legal, whilst 50.9% think that tobacco should be illegal.

The survey of over 1000 people looked at drug and alcohol use amongst people under 30, finding increased use of “legal” highs soon to be legislated against, such as nitrus oxide and salvia. It also looked at attitudes of the young to drugs and alcohol use.

Key points

  • 25% of people under 30 believe alcohol should be illegal
  • Less than half of people think tobacco should be legal
  • More people thought cannabis should be legal than tobacco
  • 51% of people between 18 and 30 know someone with an alcohol problem
  • 45.8% of students agree or strongly agree that there is a drug culture at their university
  • Over half of young people think that cannabis should be legal
  • Young people buying drugs from dealers do not feel safe whilst doing so
  • 19% of respondents have had a blackout due to drugs or alcohol within the last year

Which drugs have you tried?

Amongst the young, nitrous oxide, prescription drugs (for recreational use) and "legal highs" were popular, perhaps because of their availability and relative perceived safety. However, traditional drugs such as alcohol, tobacco and cannabis were still far more popular.

Regular use

As expected, the drug that's most likely to be used regularly by young people is still alcohol.

Over half of young people think cannabis should be legal

There is evidence that young people are taking into account the harm that drugs can do, especially when considering which drugs should be legal. The message that tobacco and alcohol are harmful drugs seems to be affecting the opinions of the young. More people, for instance, think that cannabis should be legal than think tobacco should be legal. Over half of those under thirty thought that cannabis should be legalised, whilst over 25% thought that alcohol should be illegal.

When asked why they answered the way they did, a common response was:

"Making them illegal doesn't stop people using them and increases harm" - anonymous 18-19 year old.

"Alcohol and tobacco already are, and they are proven to do more damage physiologically than cannabis so there is no reason not to legalise it." - anonymous 22-25 year old.

"Making drugs legal would stop illegal drug trafficking. Plus the fact that alcohol and tobacco are legal is just hypocritical. They are bad if not worse." - Anonymous 18-19 year old.

Those who thought all drugs should be illegal cited the harm and cost to the taxpayer:

"They all most likely cause serious health problems which cost us millions to fix every year (alcohol poisoning, liver disease...)" - Anonymous 20-21 year old

"I am very anti-drug, though I'd be lying if sometimes I wasn't intrigued by drugs. I don't even agree with cannabis. As someone who knows people who take many drugs, I have only seen their negative effects, and the deterioration of those who take them. I have nothing against those that wish to take them, though I do believe they should worry about their health more, it is not my decision, however, what they choose to do with their body. I believe that no other drugs should be legalized, though this will probably not be the case, and eventually, other drugs will be legalized. This I find to be negative, because those with little self control will proceed to expand their horizons when it comes to drugs. The only positive is that drug dealers will become a thing of the past with specific drugs, however, I am still opposed. The majority of drugs are of course, illegal, and I believe they should remain that way, lest drugs become legal it will be very difficult to make them illegal again if they DID have a negative effect on the community." - Anonymous 20-21 year old

Do you know anyone with an alcohol problem?

Drug and alcohol use use when alone

Perceived drug safety

We also asked some questions about whether young people felt safe buying drugs and whether they perceived current legal highs to be safer than illegal drugs.

Most people who used drugs did not feel safe buying drugs from drug dealers, though most thought illegal highs were more unsafe than illegal drugs.

Young people continue to buy drugs from usual sources, with most buying from a friend or a dealer rather than arranging drug deals over the internet.

Peer pressure

Almost 16% said they had used drugs because of peer pressure.

Our reaction

"This survey supports the evidence that the young's interest in trying drugs is lessening, including alcohol. At the same time it shows that rather than a liberal "anything goes" attitude towards drug policy, young people are listening to the evidence and want policies based on it. They are less likely to cite "tradition" as a reason for wanting alcohol to remain legal, and 25% of people under 30 actually want it to be made illegal, and over half of people now think cannabis should be legal.

On the negative side, it's worrying that 45% of students thought that their university has a "druggy culture", 15% of the young still say they'd tried drugs due to "peer pressure" and well over half of those surveyed said they know someone with a drug or alcohol problem."

About the survey

This survey was of over 1000 people. We have included responses from people over 30 and younger than 18 where stated, but otherwise this study was of 18-30 year olds, as it is looking at young voters attitudes towards drug use and their drug use. This survey was conducted from the 16th June - the 1st July 2015, recruiting respondents from our Facebook followers, who follow us for deals and money saving tips. The responses were from a mix of students and non-students. Images within this page are available to use, where credited and linked to as are any quotes.

If you write about this survey please include a link to the full results or to the Student Money Saver home-page. Raw data is available on request to journalists.

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