There is a common conception that pot is a healthier alternative than tobacco, but is that really the case?
As more states across the US legalize recreational marijuana, the question continues to arise about whether or not it is safer to smoke than tobacco. Many people on social media and forum threads claim that marijuana is far less dangerous than tobacco. It’s easy to see where this belief comes from, as marijuana has known health benefits, such as chronic pain relief, and can be taken without smoking.
Despite pro-legalization advocates claiming there is no comparison between smoking marijuana and a tobacco cigarette, some studies have shown that there is a crossover between the two and that while marijuana may not be as damaging to lung health, it doesn’t get off scot-free.
According to a 2017 federal report that was based on nearly 20 years of research, there’s no link between marijuana smoke and lung cancer. However, it is worth noting that research is limited by the fact that the federal government still considers marijuana a controlled substance.
Despite this, there have been strong links found in more recent studies, between long-term marijuana smoking and frequent bronchitis infections, severe coughs, and frequent healthcare trips for respiratory issues.
The American Lung Association has also reported findings that suggest marijuana smoke not only damages the lungs, but can also lead to a weaker immune system. People who are already immunocompromised are especially at risk as the body’s ability to fight disease and infections is weakened.
Reports have also found that unlike tobacco, marijuana can play a part in the development of schizophrenia, and being a psychoactive drug, has caused an increase in traffic accidents. This has prompted cities like Los Angeles to post billboards and other advertisements telling people not to drive while high.
Currently research into the effects of marijuana smoking is still in its infancy. While researchers can draw on decades of the effects of tobacco smoking, marijuana is still relatively new. There are also effects of smoking that come become apparent years after someone has quit, which again is something that we have to wait and see with regards to marijuana.
Because of this, health experts do not recommend one over the other because neither is truly safe from possible health issues. Ingesting marijuana in the form of a pill or edible can be seen as a safer alternative to smoking, but other effects may become known as research continues.