April 13, 2008

VIII. We Worry About Teen Marijuana Use, But Not About Teen Sports

Risk arguments cannot be divorced from values.

If the risks of smoking marijuana are coldly compared to those of playing high-school football, parents should be less concerned about pot smoking. Death by marijuana overdose has never been reported, while 13 teen players died of football-related injuries in 2006 alone. And marijuana impairs driving far less than the number one drug used by teens: alcohol. Alcohol and tobacco are also more likely to beget addiction, give rise to cancer, and lead to harder drug use.

If the comparison feels absurd, it’s because judgments of risk are inseparable from value judgments. We value physical fitness and the lessons teens learn from sports, but disapprove of unearned pleasure from recreational drugs. So we’re willing to accept the higher level of risk of socially preferred activities—and we mentally magnify risks associated with activities society rejects, which leads us to do things like arresting marijuana smokers.

“Risk decisions are not about risks alone,” says Slovic. “People usually take risks to get a benefit.” The value placed on that benefit is inherently subjective, so decisions about them cannot be made purely “on the science.”

From 10 Ways We Get the Odds Wrong

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One Response to “”

  1. daveinthewest said

    True dat. It’s only a matter of time Mr. Darmon. The reasons keep coming.

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