Which one is the most harmful, tobacco, marijuana or alcohol?


We asked Whaleoil readers whether tobacco, marijuana or alcohol was the most harmful to society overall. Alcohol was the hands down winner at 73%

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Next, we narrowed it down to which of the three substances caused the most harm to adults specifically. Again Alcohol was the clear winner at 53% with Tobacco second at 35%.

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Finally, we asked which of the three substances was the most harmful specifically to teenagers. Alcohol came first with 52% and marijuana ran a close second with 43%

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Almost everyone who gave a written response did so because they were unable to choose between the three.

Written responses:

All three – developing brains should have as little as possible to do with addictive substances and don’t forget the most dangerous of all – sugar

Depends on circumstances and dosage level

all of them

all 3 are incompatible to a developing brain!

and weed both bad

All are drugs and it depends on the individual and the amount of substance consumed. Marijuana may encourage experimentation with more dangerous drugs, whereas tobacco addiction will cause lung cancer.All of them.

All 3 cause harm however it is known that marijuana affects brain development. Same with No.5 and No.6 – would have liked to have the option of “Other” for 5 & 6 as well.

Whichever one(s) they take and in what relative volume.

Backed by scientific research. Alcohol close second.

There is medical research now showing definite impact on brain development and links to schizophrenia from using Marijuana. It is not a harmless drug.

All are drugs and it depends on the individual and the amount of substance consumed. Marijuana may encourage experimentation with more dangerous drugs, whereas tobacco addiction will cause lung cancer.

In all of the last three questions thee correct answer is “it depends on many factors”

Depending on quantity of use / abuse. MJ if regular use, alcohol is abuse levels.

All three , theres nothing good in abusing any of them and while there might be some benefits in responsible use of alcohol theres nothing good about Tobacco and Alcohol use. Trying to say Alcohol an tobacco is legal and harmful so why not make marijuana legal …k yourself this question …if you could make it so that smoking tobacco never happened, that it was never marketted as good for you and not ‘that ‘ harmful, would you?. We fight so hard to keep the next generation from smoking tobacco and now people want to legalise marijuana…you legalise it you normalise it and the next generation will pay the price.

Impossible to choose between alcohol and marijuana in this question. Both have significant effects on the growing brain
I’d argue all 3 shouldn’t be available to teenagers

I do not have an opinion on that, they could be equal.

Hard to choose between alcohol and tobacco. Smoking isn’t nearly as cool as it used to be, so even though its long-term physical harm is greater, the prevalence is less. Alcohol is considered cool, and the damage it does tends to be more immediate and identifiable, e.g. assault.

All of them, no distinction

From personal observation I would say it causes more developmental harm to younger users

All of them

Hard to say, all of them I think

all three

  • fecnde

    All of these harms can be quantified – you don’t need to look to perceptions in polls.

    I love alcohol. Even though I’m aware of the social costs (violence, harm to self and others through stupidity eg driving). I’ve also seen, more than most people, the long term damage it does to some who were mild drinkers through their life. It really is a nasty nasty drug taken over many years. Knowing that isn’t going to stop me using it though.

    Cannabis has its problems. These are nowhere near the level seen with alcohol. I’d vote for it to be fully legalized tomorrow if I could. It’d need restrictions around using it under 20 – with bloody high penalties for those giving kids access to it. Even so – I don’t use it today (and didn’t much in my youth tbh)

    Our society would be a damn sight healthier, both mentally and physically, if people migrated from alcohol to cannabis. Its no silver bullet, some people would be badly affected, but the net difference would be an improvement.

  • Kevin

    For my money there’s nothing more addictive than starch + salt. Even writing that sentence makes me want to open a packet of crisps or a container of pringles. Seriously.

    The problem is, as other commenters have said, both sides use extreme arguments. People against marijuana say it causes brain damage, one hit will make you addicted, your life is over if you try it etc (all arguments by the way used to justify the prohibition of alcohol). While people for it argue it’s harmless, has medical benefits etc.

    The truth is, as always, in between. Abuse marijuana and it is a harmful drug – memory loss, long term health problems, etc. Use it when your brain is still developing then it’s harmful. But a toke on the odd occasion, like say once every few months or so, can’t see any harm in that.

  • kloyd0306

    Can anyone explain to me why tobacco smoking is now widely vilified while marijuana smoking is looked upon as being OK.

    The world is screwed up, is it not?

  • Elihu

    Whilst marijuana seems to be the least problematic of the three, there is an aspect of marijuana addiction and usage that is not often addressed, and that is its propensity to open up the soul to the dark side of the spiritual world. Having recovered from the abuse of all three of these poisons some thirty years ago, my personal experience with the benefit of hindsight is that marijuana is the most insidious of these three.

  • Bling Bling

    My experience of marijuana user clients in commercial settings is that it saps the will to work, the get out of bed in the morning imperative so as to bring home the bacon and is followed by loss of business, loss of assets, loss of job and insolvency. Dependents, family and lenders and sub trades lose. Some fishing operations have not been able to go to sea because too many of the crew tested positive for drugs. The cots of having ship tied up is very expensive. Serious alcoholics for a while have functionality but ultimately poor judgment leading to failure and insolvency. These people are a moral hazard financially speaking and an actual safety hazard.