Comparing Marijuana vs. Tobacco: Is Marijuana Safer Than Tobacco?

Comparing Marijuana

There has been a recent push by the public to legalize recreational marijuana; but just how safe is this drug?

Smoking cigarettes was popular in the United States for many years, but then the truth about their dangers came out. Reports of lung cancer caused by cigarettes and tobacco skyrocketed. Many people quit, but for others, it was too late. By that point, they were already hooked, and the tobacco had already caused a fair amount of damage. Now, with recreational marijuana rising in popularity, similar questions arise: is marijuana safer than tobacco? Or is it doomed to a similar downfall?

Marijuana vs. Cigarettes & Tobacco Products

While cigarettes tend to be the most well-known, there are several different types of tobacco products including cigars, smokeless tobacco, dissolvables, and most electronic cigarettes. Although containing tobacco in several different forms and amounts, all these products can be dangerous to a person’s health, especially with continued use. E-cigarettes in particular have risen in popularity with the youth in recent years. While they are marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, the long-term effects of vaping are still concerning.

Tobacco is a highly addictive substance that leads to serious health consequences with regular ingestion. It is responsible for 5 million deaths a year and is the leading cause of premature death around the world.1 The World Health Organization suggests that tobacco use is linked to cardiovascular problems, respiratory disease, and over 20 different subtypes of cancer. Even regular secondhand smoke exposure can lead to serious health complications.2 Along with being dangerous to your health, tobacco products are highly addictive. Many people struggle to quit even when they are faced with these health problems. Some research also suggests that tobacco products are similar to a gateway drug that could lead to harder drug abuse which usually requires formal substance abuse treatment to stop.3

With a quick glance, many people comparing marijuana versus tobacco will be quick to assume that marijuana is safer than tobacco. After all, medicinal marijuana is currently used to treat two rare forms of epilepsy,4 and some researchers believe its use could extend to the treatment of various other ailments. While promising, the FDA has not yet approved the marijuana plant because not enough studies have been done to determine if the benefits of this medicine outweigh the risks.

In fact, research on the long-term effects of marijuana is still limited. Some studies suggest that regular use may negatively impact brain development. Its use has also been linked to other harmful mental and physical health effects such as an increased risk of heart attack, respiratory problems, and severe nausea.5 Although the health implications of marijuana versus tobacco seem far less concerning, more research could reveal other potential health problems that may be more serious.

When comparing tobacco versus weed, it is important to also look at addictive quality. Because of nicotine, tobacco products tend to be highly addictive. To many people’s surprise, marijuana can also be addictive. Some research suggests that as many as 30% of marijuana users have some degree of a marijuana-use disorder.6 Like tobacco products, there is also evidence to suggest that marijuana is a gateway drug.7 What starts as occasionally getting high could eventually land someone in an inpatient or outpatient program for addiction. These little-known facts about marijuana make it potentially more dangerous than many people realize.

Unless using medicinal marijuana for purposes prescribed by your doctor, using marijuana or tobacco could be hazardous for your health. At our drug rehab in Chicago, we help people overcome their substance abuse problems before they escalate.

If you or a loved one is looking for treatment, call us today at 888-280-4763 to learn more.

Sources & References:

    1. NCBI- Tobacco Addiction: Diagnosis and Treatment
    2. WHO- Tobacco
    3. NIH- Why Nicotine is a Gateway Drug
    4. WebMD- Medical Marijuana FAQ
    5. NIH- Marijuana DrugFacts
    6. NIH- Is marijuana addictive?
    7. NIH- Is marijuana a gateway drug?

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Alyssa is Banyan’s Director of Digital Marketing & Technology. After overcoming her own struggles with addiction, she began working in the treatment field in 2012. She graduated from Palm Beach State College in 2016 with additional education in Salesforce University programs. A part of the Banyan team since 2016, Alyssa brings over 5 years of experience in the addiction treatment field.