Is inhaling marijuana smoke safer than inhaling tobacco smoke?many americans believe

(CNN) — Is inhaling marijuana smoke safer than inhaling tobacco smoke? A majority of U.S. adults agree and also believe secondhand smoke from marijuana use is less harmful to adults and children than secondhand smoke from tobacco use, according to a new survey.

However, those ideas aren’t true, says the study’s lead author, Dr. Beth Cohen, professor of medicine at UCSF and co-director of the UCSF Epidemiology and Research Methods Program.

“When something burns, whether it’s tobacco or marijuana, it creates toxic compounds, carcinogens, and particles that are harmful to your health,” he said in an email. “The problem is the combustion, so consider marijuana a ‘natural’ combustion The idea that you can just breathe it in is wrong.”

Carol Boyd, founding director of the Center for Drug Research, said that while many longitudinal studies of the health effects of inhaled marijuana were still underway, there were “a lot of toxins and tars” in marijuana smoke that could damage the lungs. , Alcohol, Smoking, and Health, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Boyd was not involved in the new study.

“I don’t think comparing the health risks of smoking marijuana and smoking tobacco is any more useful than asking ‘is it healthier to eat a cookie than a cake?’ All smoke irritates the airways and was at some point in history more useful,” Boyd said in a letter “Humans breathe polluted air and it’s good not to add smog,” the email read.

more and more people accept

The study, published in JAMA Network Open, surveyed more than 5,000 people with an average age of 50 about their attitudes toward the safety of marijuana and tobacco use. They were also asked if they thought secondhand smoke from marijuana or tobacco was potentially dangerous.

The survey, conducted in three installments in 2017, 2020 and 2021, shows that positive perceptions of cannabis are on the rise. In 2021, the final year of the survey, more than 44% of respondents thought marijuana was somewhat or safer, compared with 25.5% who thought cigarettes were safer.

As for the potential harm to other people from inhaling marijuana smoke, more than 40 percent thought marijuana smoke was safer, compared with just 23 percent of those who chose tobacco.

“I can’t speak to the dangers, but if a person is in an enclosed space with someone who smokes marijuana, they can test positive for marijuana in their urine. They may also experience some of the other physical effects of marijuana, such as Increased heart rate and ‘drunk’ feeling,” Boyd said.

While the findings on the health effects of marijuana are increasingly worrisome, “our perceptions are going in the opposite direction,” Cohen said.

“While tobacco policies are becoming stricter, banning smoking in public places and banning flavored products, cannabis is becoming more widespread,” he said. “There are also attempts to allow cannabis smoking where smoking is prohibited.”

worrying investigation

Research on the health effects of cannabis is in its infancy. Historically, researching marijuana use has been difficult because marijuana was and remains illegal in many states. Additionally, the federal government has historically had very strict regulations on how marijuana is researched.

That’s starting to fade, and with many states legalizing recreational use of marijuana, more researchers are now studying the consequences of regular marijuana use.

“Regular marijuana use is known to be associated with chronic bronchitis and inflammation of the throat and bronchi,” Boyd said. “While marijuana smoke contains carcinogens such as benzopyrene and benzanthracene, smoking marijuana does not appear to cause lung cancer.”

A 2021 study found that people who only smoked marijuana had higher levels of various smoke-related toxins in their blood and urine than non-smokers. These toxins have been linked to anemia, liver and nerve damage, cancer and other health problems.

Another 2021 study found that teens were twice as likely to experience chest “whistles or whoops” after smoking marijuana than after smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes. In fact, regular marijuana use was associated with more negative respiratory symptoms: restless sleep due to wheezing; limited speech due to wheezing; wheezing during or after exercise, and a dry cough at night that was not due to a cold or chest infection.

Inhaling any type of smoke can damage the lungs, according to experts. Credit: Chabybucko/iStockphoto/Getty Images

A 2022 study looked at the lungs of people under 50 who smoked both tobacco and marijuana and found that 75 percent had emphysema, a disease of the small airways that damages the air sacs in the lungs. About 67 percent of smokers who smoked only tobacco developed emphysema, compared with 5 percent of non-smokers, the study showed.

“Presumably, these patients have less exposure to smoke throughout their lives, they’re just more likely than heavy smokers,” Dr. Giselle Revah, lead author and associate researcher of the study, told CNN earlier. The disease was more severe and they had been smoking for a longer period of time,” said a professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of Ottawa, Ontario.

“We just don’t know if it’s a synergy between cannabis and tobacco versus cannabis alone,” Rewa said.

Another concern: According to the American Lung Association (ALA), people who smoke marijuana tend to inhale more deeply and the smoke stays in the lungs longer, “resulting in more tar exposure with each breath,” according to the American Lung Association (ALA).

“Smoking marijuana kills the cells that help clear away dust and bacteria and causes more mucus to form, compromising the lungs’ first line of defense against infection,” the association says on its website.

Smoking marijuana also suppresses the immune system and exposes users to mold that grows on marijuana, the ALA said.

While more research is needed on the effects on the lungs of people who smoke marijuana or the health effects of second-hand smoke from marijuana, what is known is worrying, Cohen said.

“I’m not against marijuana, I just want people to make informed decisions,” he said. “Even if we do more research and find that marijuana smoke is less harmful than tobacco smoke, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

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