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Is Smoking Marijuana More Dangerous Than Smoking Tobacco?

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Marijuana is growing more popular as more states seek to legalize the use of the drug medical or recreational purposes.

Several studies have proven that marijuana use has certain health benefits, including relief from chronic pain. However, there are some who oppose still oppose the legalization of the drug.

Smoking Is Bad

One major concern among government officials and health experts is how the popularity of smoking pot would affect one of the country's biggest threat to public health: tobacco use.

The United States has made giant strides in the fight against cigarette smoking. Last year, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that only 14 percent of American adults used tobacco products. For comparison, in the 60s, over 40 percent of American adults admitted to using tobacco products every day.

"We're trying to stop people from smoking all kinds of things," stated New York Councilman Peter Koo at a recent city hearing about the possible legalization of recreational marijuana use. "Why do you want to legalize marijuana?"

The American Lung Association, on its website, stated that it does not endorse the use of marijuana. The public health group explained that smoke, in general, is bad for the lungs and previous studies claimed that marijuana combustion releases the same toxins and irritants as tobacco.

Moreover, marijuana users tend to inhale the smoke deeper and hold their breath longer, leading to greater exposure to tar.

The group also warned about the health risks that come with smoking pot. The recreational use of the drug has been linked to chronic bronchitis. It can also injure the cell lining of the large airways that can cause chronic cough, acute bronchitis, phlegm production, and wheezing.

Tobacco And Marijuana Are Very Different

Advocates of the legalization of marijuana, however, argue that comparisons with tobacco are unfair. Marijuana and tobacco are two different substances and, therefore, should be treated differently.

"For tobacco, we know that it's inherently dangerous and that there is no safe amount of tobacco to use," stated Rebecca Giglio, a drug policy analyst at the New York City Health Department. "[W]e see this as an opportunity to address the harms of criminalization while also regulating cannabis."

Lora Brown, a doctor who recommends cannabis to patients, told Tampa Bay Times that the drug has helped people manage bronchial secretion and lowered their risk of developing bronchitis. A patient reported that marijuana use cleared the phlegm from her lungs and dried out her mouth, preventing her from choking on saliva.

Cary Pigman, a physician and a lawmaker in Florida, added that those who smoke marijuana consume fewer of the substance compared to cigarette users. An average person, for example, smokes up to 40 cigarettes per day. Meanwhile, a person who opts for cannabis might only be using four marijuana cigarettes a day.

Ryan Floyd, a pulmonary and critical care medicine specialist, said that more research is needed to see the long-term effects of marijuana use.

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