Monday’s Telegraph carries some details from a new YouGov poll for the Telegraph and RSA. The poll suggests that over 90% of people think that drugs are a serious problem today, although 39% of people think that the problem is largely confined to certain neighbourhoods and kinds of people.

Asked to compare the amount of damage done by legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco to that done by illegal drugs respondents thought that alcohol (78%) and tobacco (60%) were more damaging to a larger number of people than illegal drugs (55%) – not a surprising finding given the widespread use of alcohol and tobacco compared to hard drugs. Asked how much damage drugs do to the individual alcohol and tobacco were also relatively highly placed. At the top of the list 97% thought that injecting heroin was likely to do a lot or some harm to users, followed by crack cocaine on 96%, solvents on 93%, ecstacy on 92%, followed by tobacco on 90%. 86% thought that LSD was harmful, 83% alcohol and only 64% cannabis. Of course, these figures do not dintinguish between the amount of harm people think each drug does – if anything, tobacco’s high placement in the list is less surprising than the fact that 10% of people apparently don’t think tobacco is harmful.

Asked about the legal position of hard drugs, 73% of people thought they should remain illegal as at present. 17% thought that possesion of hard drugs for personal use should be downgraded to a lesser offence, while 6% thought possession should be legalised. On soft drugs like cannabis, only 38% of people thought their sale and possession should be treated as criminal offences, 30% thought that the sale of them should be a criminal offence, but possession should be a lesser offence, 13% thought possession of soft drugs should be legal and 15% thought both the sale and possession of soft drugs should be legalised.

On both these questions there was a sharp difference between age groups – 82% of those born before 1945 thought possession of hard drugs should remain a criminal offence, compared to only 67% of those born after 1960. A majority (51%) of those born before 1945 thought that possession of soft drugs should be a criminal offence, compared to 34% of those born after 1960. Only 8% of those born before 1945 thought soft drugs should be entirely legalised, compared to 18% of those born after 1960.

Asked if alcohol and tobacco should be classified in the same way as illegal drugs are, 62% agreed – though presumably 62% of people are not supporting prohibition of them. 56% of people said they would support a D classification for drugs like alcohol and tobacco, to indicate they were harmful.

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