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Is Cannabis Smoke Worse For People Than Tobacco Smoke?

One thing that international cannabis opponents try to do as much as possible is to try to associate the emerging cannabis industry with the tobacco industry.

“We have seen the harms that tobacco has caused in society, and we can’t let cannabis do the same by legalizing,” is a very popular talking point for opponents.

Is it a fair claim? Other than the fact that cannabis and tobacco are both smoked by consumers, are they really similar from a public health standpoint?

A team of researchers investigated whether cannabis smoke is the same as tobacco smoke as it pertains to consumer health, and the results were not favorable to cannabis opponents’ claims regarding tobacco and cannabis.

Cannabis Smoke, Tobacco Smoke, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

A study was recently conducted in New Zealand in which researchers looked at clinical trial data to assess the impact of cannabis smoke exposure on the lungs. 

According to the study, “the effects of smoking cannabis on the lungs are distinct from tobacco.” How distinct?

“[I]t has been pragmatic to assume that cannabis and tobacco would have similar respiratory effects. … The research that has been done, however, offers a different story. The most common serious respiratory consequences from smoking tobacco are Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Epidemiological evidence that smoking cannabis causes either of these is scant.”

The researchers also determined that there’s “little epidemiological evidence of an association between cannabis and emphysema…”

That is great news for cannabis consumers, and should be welcomed news to cannabis opponents that claim to be concerned about the health of cannabis consumers.

The Cannabis Industry is Not the Same as the Tobacco Industry

The impact on a consumer’s health is not the only way that cannabis differs from tobacco.

For many decades the tobacco industry knowingly caused harm to society via its products; though not known at the time, evidence has since surfaced.

Members of the international tobacco industry put profits over the health of the public, and unfortunately, government regulators enabled those nefarious strategies for many years.

The cannabis industry may have a bad apple here and there, however, a vast majority of members of the cannabis industry are conducting business ethically, and in a very transparent fashion.

Also, government regulations in legal cannabis markets are very stringent, and that has been the case from the very beginning of the legal cannabis industry.

The science speaks for itself – cannabis is not the same as tobacco, and the track record of the emerging cannabis industry is vastly better than the track record of the tobacco industry. Research would suggest the two industries have far less in common than some opponents would have you believe.


  • Johnny Green is the Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference and has blogged about cannabis since January 2010.

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