Smoking

Huh? Survey Says Sugar Is More Dangerous Than Marijuana

Sugar is more dangerous than marijuana, says the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey of American public opinion. For this news we can thank two political agendas spinning together to create misperceptions on a colossal scale.

Who needs pesky facts and evidence?

Seriously, this news might give you a reason to think twice about the consequences of overreaching on a messianic health and nutrition agenda. Extremes in nutrition policies seldom work out well for public health.

Snack Well Fat-Free Devil's Food Cookie CakesRemember single-minded pursuit of a low-fat diet for all in the 80s? The result of that untested mandate was that a dizzying proliferation of foods promoted as low-fat or fat-free. That’s what brought us the McLean low-fat hamburger. Skim or low-fat dairy became a universal recommendation. This is where fat-free cookies and candy came from. Calories in the American diet zoomed up because people put a lid on their consumption of fat (it didn’t go down), but we started eating a lot more sugar and other carbs. It’s a great case study of unintended consequences.

So now we have a reaction against draconian regulation of one substance — marijuana — that is leading people to overlook the health risks of smoking it. Likewise we have a strong reaction against excessive consumption of sugar that’s having a good effect of tamping down consumption of added sugars. But at the same time it’s leading some to offer up extreme regulatory and taxation schemes without developing an evidence base to support them. Is middle ground too much to hope for?

We find ourselves wanting sugar-free marijuana brownies.

Click here to read more in the Washington Post and here for the actual survey.

Smoking, photograph © Chuck Grimmett / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.