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Study Finds That More Adults Believe Marijuana is Safer Than Tobacco Despite Similar Health Risks

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open revealed that more Americans perceive smoking marijuana and being exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke to be safer than inhaling tobacco, despite medical research suggesting otherwise.

The study, conducted by nine researchers who surveyed 5,035 adults in 2017, 2020, and 2021, found that respondents increasingly favored cannabis over tobacco in each successive survey. The participants perceived daily smoking of cannabis or exposure to its smoke to be safer than tobacco.

The study underscores the need for further research and education as more states legalize marijuana. According to Beth Cohen, a co-author of the study and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, the increase in positive messaging about cannabis due to advertising and promotions could contribute to the shifting perceptions.

In 2021, more than one-third of adults surveyed believed that daily smoking of cannabis was safer than tobacco, and the number of participants who found secondhand marijuana smoke to be safer than tobacco also increased. The study identified younger participants aged 18-29 and the unmarried as more likely to hold safer views of marijuana smoking.

Despite the lack of detailed research into the risks of cannabis, doctors have warned that tobacco and marijuana smoke contain similar particles, carcinogens, and toxins that can harm the lungs, heart, and airways. Animal studies have shown that tobacco and cannabis smoke exposure lead to similar cardiovascular effects, and the smoke of both contains many of the same toxins and carcinogens.

Existing research also associates marijuana with various negative health outcomes, including cannabis dependence, increased respiratory symptoms, impaired cognitive performance, and a higher incidence of psychiatric disorders. Additionally, like alcohol, smoking marijuana can impair driving and pose a risk to highway safety.

The average potency of marijuana has increased over the years, with higher concentrations of THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis. The increased potency and legalization of marijuana in over 20 states have contributed to its growing popularity.

On the other hand, cigarette smoking has declined among all but the oldest adults, but the use of electronic cigarettes (vaping) has become more prevalent among young people. Vaping carries similar health risks, with the liquid solution containing nicotine and other addictive chemicals that can contribute to heart, lung, and blood vessel diseases.

The study suggests that there is a need for greater regulation and education on the risks of marijuana use, especially as cannabis advertising becomes more pervasive. While cannabis may have potential benefits for managing chronic pain, smoking it still poses negative cardiovascular effects.

In conclusion, the study highlights the importance of ongoing research and awareness campaigns to inform the public about the potential health risks associated with both tobacco and marijuana use.

Unique Perspective:

As societal attitudes toward marijuana continue to evolve and more states legalize its use, understanding the potential health risks becomes crucial. Educating the public about the similarities between tobacco and marijuana smoke, and the associated toxins and carcinogens, is vital for making informed decisions. Additionally, striking the right balance in regulation, with a focus on creating smoke-free environments, can help protect public health while acknowledging individual liberties.

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