Remember when former prime minister Stephen Harper called cannabis “infinitely worse than tobacco?” Canadians rightfully laughed at him. Some of us also laughed at him for saying the Liberals would introduce a Netflix tax.
The Liberals ended up doing much worse – regulating the Internet. So, how accurate was his cannabis “infinitely worse than tobacco” statement?
Details of the Study
Is cannabis worse than tobacco? Obviously not, for reasons we’ll get to below. But for now, let’s go in-depth about this study.
First, it’s a preliminary study containing research that others will have to verify in the future. Therefore the results of this “cannabis worse than tobacco” study are inconclusive.
That said, the researchers used CT scans from cannabis smokers, non-smokers, and tobacco-only smokers who were over 50 years old and had been smoking for over 25 years.
Their preliminary findings suggested that cannabis smokers had higher emphysema rates than tobacco smokers. 75% of cannabis smokers had emphysema compared to 67% of tobacco smokers.
The study authors also suggest gynecomastia was more common in cannabis smokers than tobacco-only smokers.
Why These Results?
The researchers noted that higher rates of airway diseases in cannabis smokers “may be due to the way that marijuana is smoked and the fact that marijuana smoke enters the lungs unfiltered.”
Furthermore, cannabis smokers tend to inhale more and hold it in their lungs longer than tobacco smokers.
That said, airway inflammation caused by inhaling dead plant matter is reversible if caught early enough.
Although not mentioned in the study, cannabinoids like CBD have anti-inflammatory properties. So one could theoretically offset the damage of smoking by taking CBD oil.
Nevertheless, study author Dr. Revah said they’ll need more research “before we can affect policy change. We need larger, more robust prospective studies with more patients to confirm it.”
Including how cannabis was smoked. Is smoking through a water bong safer than directly inhaling from a small glass pipe?
And why “affect policy change?” Cannabis prohibition didn’t work before. It doesn’t work under legalization. And it won’t work if or when public health busybodies tighten the rules.
Is Cannabis Worse Than Tobacco?
If all you have is this small sample size, and you’re just looking at lung health, I suppose you could conclude that cannabis is worse than tobacco.
But there are other factors besides the inconclusiveness of this preliminary study.
The main factor in settling whether cannabis is worse than tobacco is the number of deaths each cause every year.
More than 480,000 people in the United States die every year from tobacco. Worldwide, that number is more than 8 million every year.
How many people die from cannabis on an annual basis? Zero.
Even if we give the prohibitionists the benefit of the doubt, they can only attribute cannabis to 14 deaths.
14 since 1998 versus 8 million every single year.
Here’s what it looks like charted out.
Cannabis is barely visible.
If cannabis smoking concerns you, you have other options: