We are a society that, as a general rule, doesn't understand the basic rules of logic. We don't understand cause and effect, we don't understand that correlation does not prove causation, we don't understand how many of the things we say and think are based on flawed reasoning.
Today on the radio, during my Saturday morning commute to work, I heard an interesting commercial that stated the following (paraphrased): 90% of 12 year olds that smoke tobacco were pot users by age 16, and some of them went on to harder drugs. Its important to tell your children about gateway drugs, blah blah blah...
Lets tear this argument apart. First of all, the commercial doesn't explain what a pot user is. Does smoking a joint every few months make you a pot user? How about once a year? Or is a pot user someone who smokes every day? There is a huge difference between 12 joints a year and 365 joints a year. Then "some" of them went on to use harder drugs. What percentage is "some"? 1%? 50%? 75%? 99%? (I'm assuming its under 51%, or else "most" would have been substituted for "some".)
The terms are poorly defined, if they are defined at all!
Assume that the commercial stated "90% of 12 year olds that smoked at least one cigarette went on to smoke marijuana once a month by the time they are 16, and 5% of them went on to harder drugs." Even with the ideas more clearly stated, the commercial is still logically flawed. We cannot tell if smoking tobacco at a young age is the cause of illegal drug use at an older age. Hell, we can't even tell if its statistically relevant. Lets say 99% of all teenagers have tried tobacco. Now lets say that 75% of these teens get married when they are in their 20's. We can't say that teenage smoking causes marriage, right? This is because correlation does not prove causation. If 90% of people who do A later end up doing B, we can't say that A causes B, since some unknown force, (lets call it C) might cause A & B. In this case, I could make a strong argument that C would be teenage society's willing to experiment and test limits. So, statistically speaking, tobacco experimentation causing illegal drug use is about as logical as going to church attendence causes death (100% of church goers have, or can expect to die one day).
I have no problems with anti-drug commercials, since some drugs have serious health problems associated with them, and there is always the criminal aspects of any illegal drug use, my problem is poorly thought out drug commercial.