What’s Worse, Smoking Tobacco or Marijuana? Part 1
The other day in an elementary classroom, I was asked this question, “Which is worse for you, to smoke cigarettes or marijuana? I have answered this exact question on many occasions, so I thought I’d take a moment to answer it here.
It isn’t a small issue and there are many reasons why one is more dangerous than the other, so I will cover it in two articles. In this, the first article, we’ll look at how marijuana compares poorly. In the second article, I want to show how tobacco compares and why it kills more people than all other drugs combined.
First, it IS a valid query; which is worse? Both of these drugs are prevalent in our current society, and although marijuana is still illegal for recreational use in nearly every part of this country, the media tend to report primarily on the two states where it is quasi- legal and to ignore the 48 where it’s still a crime, however small. But legal or not, which is more harmful?
The first consideration would have to be the physical differences in the smoke from both plants.
Marijuana smoke contains more carcinogens.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana smoke has 50 to 70 percent more carcinogens that tobacco smoke. We know that cigarette smoke contains 70 proven carcinogens. That puts smoke from marijuana at around 105 to 120 cancer causing chemicals.
The smoke from joints also contains more tar than cigarette smoke.
This is very important as most of the chemicals linked to cancer are to be found in the tar. Tar is extremely sticky, so those cancer-linked chemicals will be literally pasted to the healthy tissues in the lungs, arteries, the heart or the brain where they can continue to irritate, month after month, even year after year.
When smoking marijuana, the smoke is typically taken more deeply and held in longer then the smoke from a cigarette.
Pot smokers know why this is done. The idea is to force the lungs to absorb as much of the active ingredient, THC, as possible from each puff. Marijuana is expensive so they want to get as high as they can with every hit.
But only one of the thousands of chemicals in marijuana smoke is the drug THC, and they are forcing their lungs to absorb ALL of them. This gives the tar and therefore carcinogens from each puff more time to stick and stay.
On the psychological end of things, the differences are huge.
THC alters the perceptions and judgment of the smoker.
This is, of course, the main reason to use marijuana, the high. “High” means feeling different, having altered emotions and sensations. Depth perception changes occur; thoughts are slowed, reaction time is too.
We’ve all heard anecdotes of the goofy things that people have done while stoned on weed. This might seem fun or entertaining, but according to a study done at Purdue University, the most common illegal drug in fatally injured drivers is marijuana- more than heroin or cocaine and methamphetamine combined. Not so goofy.
Although nicotine is more addicting that THC, addiction to marijuana in rarely argued anymore.
The pleasure in the high is the obvious reason for people to begin and continue to use marijuana over and over again. Both marijuana and tobacco are addicting. Nicotine, however can produce an addiction that is monumentally worse and more difficult to overcome than the addiction to THC. People often go to early graves because they’re unable to beat their nicotine habits. That doesn’t happen with weed.
The psychological effects of these two drugs are very different, so the reasons why they are both addicting are not the same. We’ll cover those more in the following article, What’s Worse, Smoking Tobacco or Marijuana? Part 2