Is Marijuana A Better Alternative To Cigarettes?

Many smokers choose to make the switch from cigarettes to marijuana, whether it’s to simply give up smoking forever or to get more of a “buzz” from an inhalant. Marijuana and tobacco are both derived from naturally-occurring plants, but there’s a common misconception that “naturally-occurring” substances are always healthy. This simply isn’t the case.

Comparing marijuana and cigarettes requires some facts about both and their effects on the body, so you can choose for yourself. The answer to the question is a matter of personal preference, but you’ll find an in-depth comparison below for your consideration. If you’re a smoker, there are plenty of alternative products available aside from marijuana to get you off of cigarettes, including tobacco-less chew (Black Buffalo is a good start), CBD oils, and more.

Cigarette Facts

To get started, let’s look at some cigarette facts. Cigarettes are one of the most deadly and destructive products on the market to individual and public health and even the environment. Every year, the tobacco industry is responsible for millions of tons of litter, toxic waste, and thousands of deforested acres to make way for massive tobacco farms. This environmental damage affects wildlife, ecosystems, and perhaps more importantly, waterways.

You see, the tobacco industry is a fan of pesticides and fertilizers. After all, the crops can be worth billions of dollars in the final product form, so they must be protected and provide the highest yields possible. The problem with these chemical fertilizers and pesticides is that they’re loaded with dangerous and toxic chemicals, heavy metals, and other substances that offer a serious health hazard. And all of those nasty things end up in your cigarettes.

Cigarettes are said to contain anywhere from 3,000-7,000 chemicals, and at least 70 of those are known carcinogens (cancer-causing). Cigarettes have been linked to dozens of cancers and can cause serious damage to internal organs such as the heart and lungs. In fact, smoking makes you twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke because of its effects on the heart and blood vessels.

When you inhale cigarette smoke, the chemicals affect the red blood cells; specifically, the hemoglobin. Your blood thickens, and those platelets have a much more difficult time carrying and delivering oxygen to important organs and tissues. Not to mention, your blood pressure spikes, which causes serious strain on cardiac muscles and the inner lining of blood vessels. The bottom line?  Every time you take a drag on a cigarette, you’re taking minutes off of your life. And that’s a fact.

Marijuana Facts

Marijuana is a strain of Cannabis that contains higher concentrations of THC, the psychoactive compound responsible for marijuana’s classic “high” sensation. Users report feelings of euphoria and heightened physical sensation, as well as serious impairment. Let’s look at some marijuana facts to properly compare it to cigarettes.

Marijuana does not contain the enormous number of chemicals that tobacco does. While it has found use in some medical applications to help manage things like pain and anxiety, the exact benefits of inhaling marijuana smoke are still being studied. What we do know is that it shows great promise in pain management and perhaps even managing conditions like depression.

That being said, there’s a common misconception that you can’t become addicted to marijuana. Let’s clarify. While you can become chemically addicted to nicotine, you likely won’t become chemically addicted to THC, but that doesn’t mean you won’t become dependent on it for everyday life. You can become dependent on just about anything that brings you joy.

Is It Better?

The question still remains whether marijuana is a “better” alternative to cigarettes. The short answer? No. The lungs are designed to inhale oxygen, and that’s the only thing that should be entering them. Foreign substances can be dangerous, and hot smoke from any inhaled plant matter can cause damage to important lung structures.

Not to mention, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, despite being legalized in several states. That means you could potentially be prosecuted for possessing, growing, or using it.

Conclusion

Perhaps a better question to ask is, “what could I be doing instead of smoking?” Many of us suffer from a helpless addiction to a harmful vice, but even replacing that vice with something similar but “less harmful” can still be harmful in the end. Perhaps we should instead focus on art, literature, and other noble pursuits to better ourselves and spend our time more wisely. Vices, however minor they may seem, can lead us down a road we do not want to take. A more focused approach to our personal health will make us a happier, healthier society as a whole, which is something we definitely need during this pandemic. Don’t put yourself at risk for something that only damages your body!

New Study: Marijuana Smoke Exposure Not Linked To Poor Lung Health

COLORADO:  Long-term exposure to cannabis smoke is not associated with significant adverse effects on pulmonary function, according to clinical data published in the journal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases.

A team of investigators led by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health assessed the relationship between marijuana use and respiratory function in a cohort of 2,300 subjects ages 40 to 80, many of whom also smoked tobacco.

Authors reported, “Neither current nor former marijuana use was associated with increased risk of cough, wheeze, or chronic bronchitis when compared to never marijuana users. … Current and former marijuana smokers had significantly higher FEV1 (forced expiratory volume) … when compared to never users. … Both current and former marijuana use was associated with significantly less quantitative emphysema … when compared to never users, even after adjusting for age, … current tobacco smoking pack years, and BMI. … In agreement with other published studies, we also did not find that marijuana use was associated with more obstructive lung disease.”

Researchers also reported that the long-term combined use of tobacco and cannabis was not associated with any additive adverse effects on the lungs. They concluded, “Among older adults with a history of tobacco use, marijuana use does not appear to increase risk for adverse lung function. … There may be no to little increased risk of marijuana use for a further increase in respiratory symptoms or adverse effects … among those with a history of concomitant tobacco use.”

Prior longitudinal studies assessing the effects of long-term cannabis smoke exposure on lung function have similarly reported that subjects’ marijuana use history is not positively associated with increased incidences of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, or with other significant detrimental effects on pulmonary function.


For more information, contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, “Marijuana use associations with pulmonary symptoms and function in tobacco smokers enrolled in the subpopulations and intermediate outcome measures in COPD Study (SPIROMICS),” appears in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases.