NEW YORK (AP) – As more countries make it legal to smoke marijuana, some government officials, researchers, and others are worried about what that could mean for one of the greatest public health successes: stopping cigarette smoking.
While there are notable differences in health research findings on tobacco and marijuana, some people think the juxtaposition is shocking after generations of Americans have been told that smoking endangers their health.
"We try to stop people from smoking all kinds of things, why do you want to legalize marijuana?" a New York City Councilor, Republican Peter Koo, asked about a recent visit to the city about the potential legalization of the state of so-called recreational pot use.
Proponents of marijuana say there is no comparison between joints and tobacco cigarettes. An extensive federal assessment of marijuana research revealed that the lung health risks of smoking weeds appear to be "relatively small" and "much lower than that of smoking tobacco", the leading cause of preventable mortality in the US.
Unlike cigarettes, there are indications of certain health benefits of marijuana, such as relieving chronic pain. And marijuana can be used without smoking. Most states now have legal medical jackpot programs & # 39; s; 10 states and the District of Columbia have approved recreational use.
"They are different products and they need to be treated differently," said Mason Tvert, a spokesperson for the Marjoeana legalization policy project.
At the same time, studies have shown crossover between marijuana and tobacco use. And while smoking cannabis is less dangerous than tobacco for lung health, the jar does not get a completely clean slate.
Some health officials and anti-smoking activists are also concerned about the insertion of legal marijuana into the growing world of vape, given uncertainties about the long-term effects of the smoking alternative.
Here is a look at the problems, science and perspectives:
SMOKING POT VS. TOBACCO
Although cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for lung cancer, some scientific data suggest that there is no connection between marijuana smoking and lung cancer. That's according to a 2017 federal report that completed nearly two decades of studies on marijuana, research that was limited by the federal government's classification of marijuana as a regulated substance such as heroin.
While cigarette smoking is a major cause of heart disease, the report concluded that it is unclear whether marijuana use is associated with heart attacks or strokes.
But there is strong evidence that long-term cannabis smoking is linked to worse cough and more frequent attacks of chronic bronchitis, according to the report of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The report also looked at other effects, where a mix of possible risks, upsides and unknowns was found. For example, the report states that marijuana can alleviate chemotherapy-related nausea and chronic pain in adults, but can also find evidence that the drug is linked to the development of schizophrenia and to having traffic accidents.
In recent weeks, studies have raised concerns about high potency and psychosis potency and a documented increase in marijuana-related emergency care after legalization in Colorado.
Tobacco and marijuana use can also go together. Blunts – marijuana in a cigar wrapper with tobacco leaves – have become popular. And studies have found that more cigarette smokers have used the pot, and vice versa, compared to non-smokers.
"One substance reinforces the use of the other, and vice versa, which can escalate a path to addiction," says Dr. Sterling McPherson, a medical professor at the University of Washington who studies marijuana and tobacco use among teenagers.
The National Academy's report states that pot use is likely to increase the risk of dependence on other substances, including tobacco.
For some public health officials it makes sense to legalize marijuana and to place some handrails around it.
"For tobacco, we know it is inherently dangerous and that there is no safe amount of tobacco to use," says New York City Health Department drug policy analyst Rebecca Giglio. While with marijuana: "we see this as an opportunity to tackle the damage of criminalization while we also regulate cannabis."
But opinions from the health department vary even within the same state: New York's Association of County Health Officials oppose legalizing recreational weed.
SO, WHAT WITH VAPING?
Vapen – warming up a solution to a vapor and inhaling – has been picked as a safer alternative to smoking.
Experts have said that the pig pot is probably less harmful to the lungs than it is smoked, although little research has been done on its health effects over time and they are concerned about its potential when they are molded .
The American Lung Association is concerned that vapors will ultimately be harmful to lung health and is concerned about an increase in the use of underage e-cigarettes. And adding legal marijuana to the photo "just makes it a more complicated subject," said Erika Sward, deputy vice president.
Others, however, find policy makers vaping as a relatively safe way to use pot.
"I would say that the risks with that form of consumption will be less," says Rebecca Haffajee, University of Michigan health policy professor, who co-wrote a piece from 2017 calling for recreational marijuana program & # 39; s to allow only non-movable forms of the drug.
In the meantime, some local governments have amended the public smoking bans to cover both sheep and pot. The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors amended the ban last month.
As a former cigarette smoker, New Yorker Gary Smith is appalled at the fact that his home state is OK smoke pot.
He knows that research is not related to smoking marijuana and lung cancer, killing three cigarette smokers in his family and he beating him 20 years after he quit; he has been treated. But he fears that the respiratory risk of smoking marijuana is not fully known.
"It's crazy that to increase tax revenue, the government allows people to suck this stuff into your lungs," says Smith, 78, an Island Park accountant.
The physician and representative of Hawaii, Richard Creagan, feel no less strong about cigarettes. The ex-smoker and the democrat from Naalehu have unsuccessfully submitted all proposals this year to ban them by raising the legal age to 100 years.
Meanwhile, he would like Hawaii to legalize recreational marijuana, an idea that fell this year in the state legislature.
Creagan, 73, thinks that pot benefits people's well-being more than it threatens his health, and he expects non-smoking alternatives to reduce the risks. Moreover, he states that one day legal marijuana could replace tax revenues for cigarettes.
"That link," he says, "was kind of in my head."