Is inhaling marijuana smoke safer than inhaling tobacco smoke? Most Americans say yes, but a new study reveals they could be wrong.
Published in JAMA Network Open, the study surveyed 5,000 adults three separate times — once in 2017, 2020 and 2021. It found that the public's perception of marijuana was trending positively, as by 2021, 44 percent of those surveyed said they believe cannabis is safer than tobacco to inhale. Only 25.5 percent thought cigarettes were safer.
Clarifying Marijuana Myths
As marijuana is still illegal federally in the United States, there are strict regulations around how the substance can be studied. Because of this, knowledge surrounding the impact of cannabis on one's health remains little. What experts agree on is that any smoke inhalation can have detrimental effects on one's lungs.
As Carol Boyd, founding director of the Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, and Health at the University of Michigan, told CNN: “What is generally known is that frequent smoking of marijuana is associated with chronic bronchitis, throat and bronchial inflammation. While marijuana smoke contains carcinogens, such as benzoprene and benzanthracene, it does not appear that smoking marijuana causes lung cancer.”
She added: "All smoke is an irritant to the respiratory tract and at a time in human history when humans breathe polluted air, NO added smoke is good."
Dr. Beth Cohen, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and the report's lead author, also noted that while there are many restrictions around smoking tobacco, marijuana is becoming more prominent and widely available.
Cohen also expressed concern that “our perceptions are going in the opposite direction" of the information that exists around the safety of marijuana.
“I am not anti-cannabis, I just want people to make informed decisions,” she said. “Even if we do more research and find out that cannabis smoke is less harmful than tobacco smoke, that still doesn’t mean it’s safe.”