tobacco cigarette smoke

Which Is Worse – Cannabis Or Tobacco Smoke?

A popular claim for cannabis opponents is that ‘smoking cannabis is basically the same as smoking cigarettes.’ It’s a talking point that they use to try to further the flawed argument that since cigarettes kill people, cannabis should remain prohibited. There’s a number of reasons why that claim and related arguments are ridiculous.

For starters, cannabis can be consumed in many different ways beyond smoking it. If cannabis opponents were arguing for allowing edibles while keeping the act of smoking cannabis illegal it would still be ridiculous, but at least it would be more logical than arguing that all forms of cannabis consumption should be illegal.

Additionally, the claim that is offered up by cannabis opponents is based on a false equivalency. The fact of the matter is that cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke are not the same. One is much more dangerous than the other, and this article will present the science to back it up.

Do Cannabis And Tobacco Have The Same Amount Of Toxicants?

In 2021 researchers affiliated with the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota looked at the differences in toxicant exposure among cannabis-only smokers, tobacco-only smokers, and participants that regularly used both. Researchers concluded that participants who only smoked cannabis “demonstrated lower levels of toxicant exposure for most biomarkers” compared to tobacco-only cannabis and tobacco smokers.

A separate clinical trial from 2012 reported that subjects exposed to moderate doses of cannabis smoke long-term did not suffer from deficits in pulmonary function, but that subjects exposed to tobacco smoke did.

Is Cannabis Smoke Exposure Linked To Poor Lung Health?

In 2018 the results of a study conducted by researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health was released. The study involved analyzing the relationship between cannabis use and respiratory function and symptoms among 2,300 study participants. Participants ranged from 40 to 80 years old.

The researchers reported, “Neither current nor former marijuana use was associated with increased risk of cough, wheeze, or chronic bronchitis when compared to never marijuana users after adjusting for covariates. … 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.”

“Significantly Better” Health Outcomes

A study out of Australia in 2013 (University of New South Wales) researched the relationship between cannabis, tobacco, and combined cannabis-tobacco use and various health outcomes in 350 subjects aged 40 and older.

Authors reported that the cannabis-only subjects reported “significantly better” general health and fewer smoking-related health concerns compared to the tobacco-only group. Overall, researchers reported, “General health measures demonstrated a pattern in which the control and cannabis-only groups tended to report the best health, with the two tobacco-smoking groups faring worse.”

They concluded, “Cannabis-only users report better health than tobacco and cannabis-tobacco users. Mixing cannabis with tobacco may synergistically compromise health.”

Cannabis Reduces Cigarette Consumption

The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 8 million people die from tobacco use every year and that half of regular tobacco users will eventually die because of their tobacco use. Cannabis, specifically CBD, is not only safer – but it can also help reduce tobacco consumption according to at least one study, which is good news for tobacco users that want help quitting tobacco products.