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Study Finds Fewer Cannabis Consumers View Cigarette Use as Harmful

A new study, entitled “Everything old is new again: Creating and maintaining a population-level ‘shared reality’ of health risks associated with cigarette use toward both reducing the prevalence and eliminating disparities in cigarette use among all Americans,” was released in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research. Research was led by Dr. Renee Goodwin, a CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy professor, and also adjunct professor at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York.

Goodwin stated in a release that new questions will be raised as legalization of cannabis expands throughout the United States. “Tobacco control has done a tremendous job in public education on the physical health risks associated with tobacco use, and cigarette smoking in particular, over the past several decades,” Goodwin said.

The most recent study was based on data taken from 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. “Participants’ responses to a question asking how much people risk harming themselves physically and in other ways by smoking one or more packs of cigarettes per day were compared between those who use cannabis daily and those who did not use cannabis in the past year,” a press release explained. “Sixty-two percent of adults who use cannabis daily perceived pack a day cigarette use to be of ‘great’ risk to health, compared with 73% of those who did not use cannabis in the past year.”

Goodwin previously conducted studies that showed that smoking is less common among cannabis-users. “We wondered why that might be,” Goodwin said. “Our findings suggest that diminished risk perception of pack a day cigarette use might be one contributing factor.”

“Most Americans who use cigarettes have at least one mental health or substance use issue considered a barrier to smoking cessation and sustained abstinence from cigarette use. Based on our analysis of 2020 nationally representative data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)…” the study manuscript states. “…51.7% of Americans ages 12 and older who reported past 30-day cigarette use met criteria for at least one of the following: serious psychological distress, major depressive episode, heavy alcohol use or daily cannabis use…”

Goodwin spoke recently at an NYC public hearing on Introductory Resolution1417. This was proposed by Kara Hahn, Legislator for Suffolk County. It would prohibit cannabis packaging appealing to children. Goodwin explained that studies in Canada, through some of her peers, suggest that cannabis legalization hasn’t led to increase in consumption by minors. “Data from Canada suggests that plain packaging is one measure that can maximize the safe and effective rollout of cannabis legalization and protect the health, safety and wellbeing of all members of our community, including those most vulnerable: children,” Goodwin said at the hearing.

“Enacting legislation on the local and state level that reduces the appeal of cannabis products to youth vis-à-vis prohibiting product packaging that mimics foods and candies that are traditionally marketed to children (e.g., pop-tarts, Oreos) may reduce potential unintended harms to the most vulnerable members of our community via accidental ingestion/poisonings, which have exploded in number in recent years in the U.S., with child and adolescent intentional use of these products,” Goodwin said, according to an interview with Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.

Many side effects have been linked to smoking cigarettes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 480,000 Americans die each year due to tobacco-related diseases. However, legalizing cannabis has played an important role in decreasing e-cigarette and cigarette use. According to a 2019 poll, many Americans think e-cigarettes can be more deadly than smoking cannabis. The EVALI crisis, which saw 2,807 people die or be hospitalized, prompted increased testing and restriction on e-cigarettes.