Comparing cannabis with tobacco
Britain now has 13 million tobacco smokers. This number has been steadily decreasing due to public awareness of the harm caused by tobacco smoking. At the same time the number of cannabis smokers is increasing. Between 1999 and 2001, the number of 14-15 year olds who had tried cannabis rose from 19% to 29% in boys and 18% to 25% in girls, and a Home Office document estimates that 3.2 million people in Britain smoke cannabis. 1 ,2 However, the harmful effects of smoking cannabis are widely known and have recently been highlighted. 3 ,4 Although the active ingredients of the cannabis plant differ from those of the tobacco plant, each produces about 4000 chemicals when smoked and these are largely identical. Although cannabis cigarettes are smoked less frequently than nicotine cigarettes, their mode of inhalation is very different. Compared with smoking tobacco, smoking cannabis entails a two thirds larger puff volume, a one third larger inhaled volume, a fourfold longer time holding the breath, and a fivefold increase in concentrations of carboxyhaemoglobin. 5 The products of combustion from cannabis are thus retained to a much higher degree. How is this likely to translate into adverse effects on health?
We already know that regular use of cannabis is associated with an increased incidence of mental illnesses, most notably schizophrenia and depression, 4 but it is also worth examining its potential to cause other illnesses, especially those of the heart and respiratory system.
At present, there is an understandable dearth of epidemiological evidence of cardiopulmonary harm from cannabis, because its use is a relatively new phenomenon and its potency is changing. The amount of the main active constituent, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), in cannabis has increased from about 0.5% 20 years ago to nearer 5% at present in Britain, whereas “Nederweed” (the variety smoked in the Netherlands) has an average of 10-11% tetrahydrocannabinol. At the same time little study has been undertaken of any concomitant change in the content of tar. Case-control studies are difficult to perform since cannabis cigarettes do not come in standard sizes, which makes dose-response relations difficult to establish. Furthermore, most users of cannabis also smoke tobacco, which makes it difficult to dissect out individual risks. As with tobacco, there will be a latent period between the onset of smoking and the development of lung damage, cardiovascular disease, or malignant change.
Tobacco smoking is responsible for 120 000 excess deaths each year in Britain, 46 000 from cancers, 34 000 from chronic respiratory disorders, and 40 000 from diseases of the heart and circulation. However, there are indications that smoked cannabis may cause similar effects to smoking tobacco, with many of them appearing at a younger age. Smoking cannabis causes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung disorders, which were recently summarised in a review released by the British Lung Foundation. 3 A striking feature of cannabis smoking is that it is associated with bullous lung disease in young people. 6 Inflammatory lung changes, chronic cough, and chest infections are similar to those in cigarette smokers, but may also be commoner in younger people. 7 – 9 Premalignant changes have been shown in the pulmonary epithelium, and there are reports of lung, tongue, and other cancers in cannabis smokers.
Tetrahydrocannabinol has cardiovascular effects, and sudden deaths have been attributed to smoking cannabis. 10 Myocardial infarction is 4.2 times more likely to occur within an hour of smoking cannabis. 11 However, despite these alarming facts, there is no evidence at present on whether smoking cannabis contributes to the progression of coronary artery disease, as smoking cigarettes does. More studies of the cardiovascular and pulmonary effects of cannabis are essential.
It may be argued that the extrapolation from small numbers of individual studies to potential large scale effects amounts to scaremongering. For example, one could calculate that if cigarettes cause an annual excess of 120 000 deaths among 13 million smokers, the corresponding figure for deaths among 3.2 million cannabis smokers would be 30 000, assuming equality of effect. Even if the number of deaths attributable to cannabis turned out to be a fraction of that figure, smoking cannabis would still be a major public health hazard. However, when the likely mental health burden is added to the potential for morbidity and premature death from cardiopulmonary disease, these signals cannot be ignored. A recent comment said that prevention and cessation are the two principal strategies in the battle against tobacco. 12 At present, there is no battle against cannabis and no clear public health message.
Comparing cannabis with tobacco Britain now has 13 million tobacco smokers. This number has been steadily decreasing due to public awareness of the harm caused by tobacco smoking. At the same
Is Smoking Weed Different from Smoking Cigarettes?
Marijuana comes in a variety of forms, including oils, tinctures, edibles, flower, and more. As its popularity and accessibility continues to grow, it becomes more and more important for each individual user to know the possible benefits and dangers of each ingestion method. In the case of this post, we will specifically investigate the safety and efficacy of smoked marijuana.
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How Is Smoking Different from Vaping?
On the surface, smoking and vaping can seem almost identical. Both methods make use of heating elements to warm either oil or plant matter enough to make a smoke or vapor which can be inhaled. Despite this similarity, there are actually many important differences between vaping and smoking, including some which can impact your overall health.
One of these key differences lies first in terminology, combustion versus vaporization. Combustion, simply put, is burning something whereas vaporization is a phase transition from solid or liquid into vapor. Evaporation, for example, is a form of vaporization. Another difference is the temperature at which these processes occur, vaporization generally runs “cooler” than combustion. This allows some cannabinoids that may have otherwise been destroyed in the combustion reaction to be inhaled by the user, which may in turn cause a different sensation.
How Healthy is Smoking Marijuana?
All this complex chemistry, while interesting, doesn’t necessarily answer the “burning” question in our mind, is smoking marijuana healthy? To answer this, we will first start with what smoking does to the chemicals in the marijuana.
When you use a lighter to smoke, you are essentially using a very strong heating element to combust the plant matter. The temperature of the lighter can easily exceed six hundred degrees Fahrenheit, with some lighters getting much higher. This means that the chemicals in the marijuana are all being exposed to these extreme temperatures and may essentially be boiled away because of it.
One such class of chemicals are terpenes. The terpenes in marijuana influence anything from the flavor and smell to its overall effects. Recently, terpenes have received a large amount of exposure in the marijuana community due to the “entourage effect”. The entourage effect is when the different chemicals present in marijuana act and react together to produce synergistic effects in the body . For example, a terpene called myrcene may be able to increase the rate of diffusion of certain cannabinoids through the blood-brain barrier, increasing their efficacy. However, the boiling point of myrcene sits around three hundred and thirty degrees Fahrenheit, nearly half the temperature produced by a standard lighter. This means that there is a high chance that a significant amount of myrcene may boil away before ever being inhaled if smoked. The same can be said for many of the cannabinoids in marijuana, including THC and CBD. In fact, one study found that the highest recovery of THC following combustion was only sixty percent of the original concentration .
The loss of certain cannabinoids may not be beneficial, but it is likely not harmful, and therefore not very worrying. Some other research, specifically that which studies the inherent dangers of smoke inhalation, does find more pressing results. This is one of the reasons some states, including Florida, have previously banned the smoking of medical marijuana, with Florida governor Ron DeSantis recently reversing the ban.
One of the first things to consider is what happens during the combustion of marijuana? To answer this, we will dig a bit deeper into the chemical side of things we previously looked into. Generally, in a combustion reaction, the reactants include some chemical, in this case any of the chemicals found in marijuana, and a fuel, in this case oxygen. When the flame is added, these chemicals combine to produce both heat and new products. It is possible that some of these new products may be dangerous, even carcinogenic depending on the method of combustion.
The risks associated with smoking, be it marijuana or tobacco, have also been well researched with the American Lung Association offering a comprehensive breakdown. Starting from the act of burning, smoke in nearly any form is harmful to the delicate tissue in the lungs. Whether it be due to high temperature or irritating particulates, even marijuana smoke can cause damage . On top of this, many marijuana smokers tend to inhale and hold the smoke for an extended period, essentially exposing their lungs to the irritants for longer. These troubles even extend into secondhand smoke, leading to some researchers being concerned about nearby non-smokers.
On the other hand, other research has concluded that while there is a link between smoking tobacco and cancer, there is no such correlation with marijuana . There are a few hypotheses as to why this may be the case, with the first being that marijuana itself fights cancer. Another states that though both marijuana and tobacco smoke contain many of the same chemical compounds, their reactivity in the body remains distinct. This is not to say, though, that there is absolutely no link between marijuana smoke and any form of cancer, as there have been some findings pointing towards the smoke converting some respiratory cells into pre-cancerous states .
The current state of research on the dangers of marijuana smoke is muddy, especially compared to the established body of work on tobacco. Though this is not for lack of trying, and the modern availability of marijuana samples will expedite the process. At the present, though, smoking marijuana has several dangers not immediately obvious, one such being burning off key compounds due to high temperature. The practice of holding the smoke in the lungs also increases the risk of lung damage and exposure to irritants. If you are sensitive to smoke of any kind or have a history of respiratory problems, smoking marijuana may not be the most effective form of treatment.
Is Smoking Weed Different from Smoking Cigarettes? Marijuana comes in a variety of forms, including oils, tinctures, edibles, flower, and more. As its popularity and accessibility continues to