JAN 03, 2021 4:18 PM PST

Cannabis Users Don't Understand Health Risks of Smoking, Study Finds

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

A recent study has found that cannabis users often classify themselves as 'non-smokers' even though they smoke cannabis with or without tobacco. Researchers worry that this may leave them unaware of health risks. 

For the study, the researchers conducted an online survey between February and March 2020 of 12,809 people aged 18 and above in the UK. In it, they asked participants about their use of tobacco and cannabis and whether they used cannabis to treat mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. 

All in all, they found that 5% of self-reported non-smokers had used cannabis within the last year. Tobacco smokers were nevetheless more likely to have used cannabis within the last year than those who did not smoke tobacco. They were also more likely to use cannabis daily. 

The researchers further found that 46.2% of non-tobacco smokers who used cannabis tended to smoke cannabis with tobacco and that this was true for 80.8% of tobacco smokers as well. Meanwhile, users of tobacco and cannabis combinations were significantly more likely than other groups to use cannabis to treat mental health problems. 

From the initial sample size, the researchers extrapolated their findings to estimate that around 380,000 people in the UK smoke cannabis with or without tobacco together on a weekly basis. 

"It is extremely concerning that there are hundreds of thousands of people who do not see themselves as 'smokers' but are none-the-less smoking every week. It is possible that they do not realize they are putting their health at risk. It's also a concern that people may be unwittingly establishing a tobacco addiction as a consequence of their cannabis use." says Hannah Walsh, one of the study's authors. 

"Government generally sees cannabis and tobacco as separate issues but plainly their use is deeply interwoven in our country. There is an opportunity to address this in the Government's planned Addiction Strategy and Tobacco Control Plan. This strategy must include measures to tackle the overlapping use of cannabis and tobacco and the resulting harm to health." says Hazel Cheeseman, Director of Policy at Action on Smoking and Health.

While cannabis is commonly smoked with tobacco in the UK and other parts of Europe, in the Americas, it is more commonly smoked alone. As such, the findings from the study may be less applicable to regions outside of the UK and Europe. 

 

Sources: King's College London News, The GuardianAddiction

About the Author
  • Science writer with keen interests in technology and behavioral biology. Her current focus is on the interplay between these fields to create meaningful interactions, applications and environments.
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