With many studies consistently reporting harmful effects, including cancer, respiratory disease and heart disease, the danger of cigarette smoke has been known for years. As many as six million people die every year due to tobacco. While this number is staggering, a number that is even more significant is the number of people who die from marijuana—zero. But marijuana contains nearly 500 hundred chemicals, including more tar than cigarettes. So what’s the deal with the health hazards of cigarettes versus marijuana? The answer isn’t as straightforward as marijuana opponents make it out to be.
As it turns out, there is a huge difference between marijuana smoke and cigarette smoke. Marijuana smoke may contain more tar than cigarettes, but more people are dying every year due to cigarette smoke. Maybe the answers lie in more than just tar.
The Basic Difference Between Cigarettes and Marijuana
Opponents of marijuana like to explain how marijuana smokers inhale more smoke deeper into the lungs, causing greater amounts of smoke and tar to remain in the lungs and respiratory tract. However, cigarette smokers smoke more cigarettes in a shorter time frame than marijuana smokers. But one joint is equal to how many cigarettes? Comparably, cigarette smokers will smoke up to 20 cigarettes a day on average, which is much more than typical marijuana smokers.
Tobacco is physically addictive whereas marijuana is not. Why? Tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive substance that causes heart disease. By contrast, marijuana smoke does not contain nicotine but does contain cannabinoids, like THC and CBD, which possess anti-cancer activity. THC is a bronchodilator, which opens your lungs and helps to clear out smoke and dirt, whereas tobacco has just the opposite effect.
Although containing as many or more chemicals as cigarette smoke, studies have failed to support the theory that marijuana smoke is just as bad as smoking cigarettes. The largest case-controlled study ever to investigate marijuana use and lung cancer found that there was there was no association between the two. Even the U.S. National Academy of Science Institue of Medicine states, “There is no conclusive evidence that marijuana causes cancer in humans.”
In fact, it’s those anti-cancer cannabinoids that seem to help prevent cancer in some users. Either way, even a user who smokes a joint a day for 20 years has been found to have the same lung functioning as someone who didn’t smoke with some marijuana users performing slightly better on lung performance tests than cigarette smokers and nonsmokers.
Marijuana, like any other substance, can become addictive over time. Yes, approximately 9% of users will develop an addiction to the substance. But there is a big difference between cigarettes, which have chemically addicting properties, and marijuana, which may lead to addiction in those who use too much over time.
Speaking of addictions, did you know that marijuana is also less addictive than alcohol? Alcohol kills more than 37,000 U.S. citizens annually while marijuana use attributes to zero U.S. deaths ever. So while alcohol and cigarettes can be bought at your local gas station, they cause greater harm to the body and have greater addiction rates than marijuana.
Mitigating Potential Harm
Though current research does not support the theory that marijuana smoke significantly harms the lungs and causes lung cancer, there are still cases of potential harm created by marijuana smokers, particularly heavy smokers. Many may mitigate the possible harmful effects and lower the amount of chemical and tar you inhale through different options. The answer lies in vaporizers.
Users who smoke with vaporizers reduce the amount of tar and carbon monoxide typical marijuana users inhale. Observational studies show the users who smoke with vaporizers avoid any possible respiratory hazards marijuana smoke may have. Experts everywhere agree vaporizers are a safe and effective way to consume medical marijuana without negatively affecting the respiratory tract.
The amount of conflicting information comparing marijuana use and tobacco use can be overwhelming. Anti-drug websites and institutions like to report some of the facts without giving an unbiased view of the whole picture. For example, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that marijuana use affects brain development and causes the same breathing problems that tobacco users have. But, the most recent research seems to display a trend of findings that marijuana smoke is less harmful than cigarette smoke, and may even prevent cancer, despite the fact that it contains more tar and as many chemicals as cigarettes.
The American Lung Association also displays misinformation about how harmful marijuana smoke really is, stating that “smoking marijuana clearly damages the human lung,” yet citing a study that concludes, “a limited number of… studies have failed to demonstrate an increased risk of either lung or upper airway cancer.” The same study also concludes that, although “isolated case reports” show an increased risk of immunosuppressive effects of THC, this was not confirmed in the large cohort study they analyzed. The potential pulmonary risks of regular marijuana use appear to be relatively smaller and much lower than risks associated with cigarette smoke. This study was cited by the American Lung Association. However, not all of the information was clearly reported.
This display of misinformation about the potential risks and benefits of marijuana is happening every day. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s new stance to editorial pieces claiming marijuana users turn into losers, marijuana opponents are scrambling to find something to pit against marijuana. Comparing marijuana smoke to cigarette smoke is just another attempt of marijuana opponents to misrepresent the facts. The truth is the facts have been misrepresented since marijuana prohibition and the Reefer Madness days. Even the Drug Enforcement Administration admitted in 1988 that “marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume… Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
To learn more about the benefits of medical marijuana and get involved in the marijuana movement, stop by Las Vegas ReLeaf, a medical marijuana dispensary. Visit us online to see our menu, specials, and order medical marijuana online for delivery.,