Legalizing Marijuana Does Not Increase Youth Tobacco Smoking (Study)

Marijuana Doesnt Increase Youth Smoking
Unveil the truth about marijuana legalization and its impact on youth tobacco smoking with CannaMD. Our eye-opening article delves into a comprehensive study by Nicotine & Tobacco Research scientists that challenges misconceptions. Learn how legalizing marijuana does not increase tobacco use among young people. Understand the nuanced relationship between cannabis policies and tobacco smoking habits. Stay informed with evidence-based insights that dispel myths and inform policymakers. Visit CannaMD to discover the latest research and contribute to a more informed public dialogue surrounding marijuana legalization's effects on youth behavior.
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In yet another win for marijuana advocates, peer-reviewed journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research has published results discrediting the prohibitionist argument that legalizing cannabis will lead to an increase in other forms of smoking – namely: tobacco cigarettes.

Join CannaMD, Florida’s leading network of medical marijuana doctors, as we take a closer look at the research!

Smoking Marijuana vs. Smoking Tobacco

While often lumped together, smoking marijuana and smoking tobacco are two very distinct activities with completely different sets of risks and health implications. As summarized by peer-reviewed journal, Respiratory Care:

Although much is known about tobacco smoke, less is known about marijuana smoke, and inferences cannot be made about one based on the other.

The study authors continue:

Both types of smoke contain particulate matter and carcinogens; however, it has been reported that marijuana components may minimize some carcinogenic effects.

CannaMD has previously published extensive findings regarding claims conflating marijuana smoking with tobacco smoking (see: Does Smoking Marijuana Cause Lung Cancer?). Among the highlights:

In 1997, a retrospective cohort study of 64,855 participants (aged 15-49) found that:

Marijuana use was not associated with tobacco-related cancers or with cancer of the following sites: colorectal, lung, melanoma, breast.

Likewise, as summarized by the National Cancer Institute, a systematic review assessing 19 studies that evaluated premalignant or malignant lung lesions in persons 18 years or older who inhaled marijuana concluded:

Observational studies failed to demonstrate statistically significant associations between cannabis inhalation and lung cancer after adjusting for tobacco use.

These findings are perhaps best summarized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which wrote in its review of multiple meta-analyses:

There was moderate evidence of no statistical association between cannabis smoking and the incidence of lung cancer.

Not surprisingly, data published by peer-reviewed journal The Lancet has ranked tobacco as more dangerous than marijuana. For more details, see: Scientists Rank Most Dangerous Drugs.

Does legalizing marijuana increase cigarette smoking?

While the comparative dangers of tobacco smoking versus marijuana smoking are slowly making their way into the mainstream press, another question remains: Does legalizing marijuana – which, it’s assumed: increases marijuana smoking – lead to increased smoking patterns in general? In other words, does condoning the smoking of marijuana lead people (and specifically: youth) to smoke more tobacco cigarettes?

Fortunately, scientists with Nicotine & Tobacco Research say the answer is NO.

In a new study titled, Further Consideration of the Impact of Tobacco Control Policies on Young Adult Smoking in Light of the Liberalization of Cannabis Policies, researchers write:

Tobacco control policies, including significant effects of comprehensive smoking bans, total vending machine restrictions, single cigarette sale restrictions, and advertising restrictions, remain robust in reducing young adult smoking, net of cannabis policy liberalization, including the legal status of possession, penalties for sale, and medical cannabis.

Combining data on tobacco and cannabis policies at the state, county, and city levels with the nationally representative geo-coded National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 and Census data, scientists used multilevel regression and fixed effect analyses to examine the impact of cannabis policies on any past 30-day cigarette smoking, frequency of smoking, and past 30-day near-daily smoking among young adults while accounting for community and individual covariates.

As the authors summarize:

This paper provides evidence that the liberalization of cannabis laws has not adversely affected the efficacy of tobacco control efforts.

In other words (to quote the study’s conclusion):

Cannabis policies do not directly affect young adult smoking patterns in an adverse way.

Updated: May 24, 2024

Jessica Walters

Jessica Walters serves as CannaMD's Chief Medical Researcher. Prior to her time at CannaMD, Jessica earned her degree from Harvard where she focused on neuropsychology. Her personal research interests include psychosocial interventions for obesity, depression, and generalized anxiety disorders.


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