Cannabis has consistently been one of the most commonly used drugs in the world for decades – third only to the more socially acceptable alcohol and tobacco. The popularity of cannabis has managed to maintain itself – and even rise – in many countries around the world despite long-standing prohibition and often serious criminal consequences.
Nonetheless, cannabis continues to be the victim of outdated propaganda and cannabis users still face stigmatisation and demonisation. In reality, though, the two legal drugs mentioned above – tobacco and alcohol – have been found to carry much more serious consequences for our health.
In this article, we will be exploring this discrepancy and giving you five reasons – if you need them – to stop mixing your cannabis with tobacco.
Drugs and our health: The facts
All kinds of drug use come with their fair share of risks, from legal and prescription drugs to illicit, recreational drugs. However, in many cases, our perception of the true health risks is somewhat skewed – particularly when it comes to freely available, legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco. In particular, global figures have consistently shown the health risks associated with prolonged tobacco use.
For this reason and more (as we will explore below), there is no better time than right now to stop using tobacco with cannabis.
Why do cannabis users use tobacco?
It is important to note that cannabis use is not necessarily an indicator of tobacco use. However, participants in a 2015 study of cannabis users in the Netherlands found that “among those who smoked cannabis joints, 95% [of] current smokers and 67% of non-smokers reported that they ‘always’ roll cannabis with tobacco.” Despite this finding (and others like it), many people consumers who co-use cannabis and tobacco do not consider themselves smokers.
The reasons given for using tobacco with cannabis vary but the most common relate to ease of administration and the quality of the ‘high’ achieved. However, the latter of these has been disproved by recent research, as Chandni Hindocha (UCL Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit), the co-author of a recent study explained: “There’s a persistent myth that adding tobacco to cannabis will make you more stoned, but we found that actually, it does nothing to improve the subjective experience.”
So, let’s go into a little more detail about the benefits of scrapping tobacco altogether…
A leading cause of preventable death
According to the UK Health Security Agency, cigarettes (tobacco) remain “the most dangerous consumer product known to man” with up to two-thirds of lifelong smokers expected to die from smoking-related illnesses. While the number of smokers has continued to decline since these risks started to be taken more seriously, it is estimated that around 1 in 7 adults in the UK still identify as smokers. Such a high rate represents a significant burden on both the national health services and the economy – not to mention the personal impact on the individuals themselves and their families.
Tobacco use is associated with a huge number of health complications. The Royal College of Physicians currently links a total of 17 cancers, 8 respiratory conditions, 7 mental health conditions and more to smoking. Furthermore, almost half a million smoking-related hospital admissions are recorded each year in the UK alone.
You can smoke cannabis without tobacco
As we have already mentioned, smoking cannabis with tobacco is the most common form of administration among cannabis users. But that doesn’t mean that this is the only way to smoke cannabis. While all health advice recommends against smoking any product – whether legal or not – evidence suggests that omitting tobacco in your cannabis joint may be slightly less harmful. Cannabis smoked in this way is known as a ‘joint’.
A number of studies conducted over the last two decades or more have found that smoking cannabis is not associated with as many potential risks as smoking tobacco. For example, a 2005 study concluded that “components of cannabis smoke minimize some carcinogenic pathways whereas tobacco smoke enhances some.”
However, if you are still determined to combine your cannabis with another substance, there are alternatives to tobacco. In a recent article, we took a look at seven natural alternatives to tobacco to blend with cannabis.
Alternative administration options are available
While smoking cannabis without tobacco may help to reduce some of the risks associated with smoke inhalation, there is a way to all but eliminate these risks altogether. The development of high-quality vaporisers presents the best of both worlds: effective administration via inhalation without the smoke.
Dry herb vaporisers allow cannabis users to consume cannabis without the need to burn it at all. They work by heating cannabis flower to temperatures that are high enough to cause active ingredients such as cannabinoids and terpenes but not high enough to cause combustion. This means that many harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, are not released from the plant matter, making consumption safer.
But joints and vaporisers are not the only way to eliminate tobacco from your cannabis regime. Countless other products can allow you to enjoy the potential benefits of cannabis without the addition of tobacco, including edibles and oils.
It may increase the risk of cannabis dependence
Perhaps the most well-known chemical associated with tobacco is nicotine – the extremely addictive substance behind countless people’s struggle to quit smoking. While cannabis users may not use tobacco on its own, evidence suggests that even a small amount of exposure – such as that associated with the co-use of tobacco and cannabis – is enough to trigger a dependence. Furthermore, this dependence may not only relate to tobacco but also extend to cannabis itself.
A 2008 study found that smoking tobacco alongside cannabis can increase symptoms of cannabis dependency. The researchers found that the use of ‘blunts’ (defined as cannabis-packed tobacco cigar shells) and ‘chasing’ cannabis with tobacco contributes to cannabis dependence symptoms. It was therefore theorised that treatment for cannabis dependency may be more effective it if also addresses the issue of concurrent tobacco use.
This may seem like a trivial point after the reasons listed above but in the current financial climate, many of us are looking to save money where we can. It’s no secret that the cost of tobacco has sky-rocketed in recent years due to the implementation of duty increases. These increases are introduced to deter tobacco use and, to a large extent, they have worked – as we mentioned earlier in the article, smoking rates are now at an all-time low.
So, if you’re still blending your cannabis with tobacco, why not save yourself some valuable pennies and kick the baccy to the curb? It’s extremely unlikely that you will regret it in the long run.
Cannabis can be a fun and, in some cases, life-changing product. Nonetheless, consumption should always be approached with caution. Eliminating tobacco from your preferred cannabis administration method can significantly reduce unwanted side effects and health implications – and it’s easier on the purse strings, too. What’s not to like?