Those who smoke cigarettes are more likely to use cannabis on the daily basis, according to a new study. The findings could indicate that medical marijuana may be beneficial for reducing the use of cigarettes.
A new study published online in the American Journal of Public Health has discovered a relationship discovered between tobacco and marijuana consumption, suggesting that medical marijuana may be beneficial for reducing cigarette smoking.
Researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health used data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health for 2002 to 2014 to analyze the prevalence of daily cannabis use in 725,010 individuals aged 12 years and older.
Headlining the study’s findings is the relationship revealed between cigarette smoking and marijuana consumption, with cigarette smokers 10 times more likely to use marijuana on a daily basis.
The link between daily cannabis use and cigarette smoking was strongest among youths aged 12 to 17 years, with nearly one-third of youth who smoke cigarettes reporting using cannabis daily. Youth cigarette smokers were 50 times more likely to use cannabis daily than youth who don’t smoke cigarettes.
The relationship between cigarette smoking and cannabis use could indicate that either cigarettes or cannabis could placate those with a desire to smoke. If a person smokes cigarettes, the desire to smoke doesn’t likely revolve solely around nicotine.
Medical Marijuana as an Alternative?
Just as interesting, however, is that the investigators found an overall increase in daily cannabis use since 2002 among both non daily cigarette smokers and daily smokers. The fastest rates of increase of cannabis use overall were among adults aged 26 years and older compared to those aged 12 to 17 years and 18 to 25 years.
Daily cannabis use increased most rapidly among former cigarette smokers, who were categorized as individuals who have had more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime but none in the past 30 days. Additionally, everyday marijuana use was more prevalent among those considered non-daily cigarette smokers. The findings indicate that cigarette smokers may be replacing their cigarettes with cannabis.
“Using marijuana as an alternative substance is viewed as less addictive, less harmful, and carrying less stigma than cigarettes,” said principal investigator Renee Goodwin, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health. “Some clinical data suggest that marijuana lessens the experience of nicotine withdrawal, and people who quit smoking cigarettes might substitute marijuana to lessen their withdrawal symptoms.”
Replacing nicotine cigarettes with cannabis would be a positive trend for public health. In the U.S., cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature mortality, with 90 percent of lung cancer deaths attributed to smoking. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, over ten times as many Americans have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all wars fought in U.S. history.
The prevalence of smoking has drastically declined over the past half century in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of cigarette smoking adults dropped from 42.4 percent in 1965 to 16.8 percent in 2014.
“It is conceivable that this stunted decline in cigarette use is owing, in part, to the substantial increase in daily cannabis use among smokers,” said Goodwin.
“Understanding the degree to which daily cannabis use may be common among cigarette smokers is critical because previous findings suggest that any past month cannabis use is associated with smoking persistence and relapse,” she added.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse funded the study by Goodwin and her colleagues. The entire study, “Trends in Daily Cannabis Use Among Cigarette Smokers: United States, 2002-2014,” is available through the American Journal of Public Health.
Marijuana Laws in the U.S.
While cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance and prohibited under federal law, medical marijuana has been legalized in 29 U.S. states and Washington D.C. Eight states and Washington D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
While opponents to cannabis legalization commonly argue that legalization could influence on the rate of marijuana use among teens, studies have shown that the rate of marijuana use among teens in U.S. states with legalized medical marijuana has not increased.