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January 11, 2012

"Marijuana Smoke Not as Damaging as Tobacco, Says Study"

The title of this post is the headline of this report from ABC News, which seems sure to add fire to arguments that pot ought to be legalized and regulated like alcohol and tobacco.  Here is how the piece starts:

Occasional marijuana use does not appear to have long-term adverse effects on lung function, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and University of California at San Francisco analyzed marijuana and tobacco use among 5,000 black and white men from the national database, CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study), which was intended to determine heart disease risk factors over a 20-year period.

Measuring participants' lung function for air flow and lung volume five times throughout the study period, the researchers found that cigarette smokers saw lung function worsen throughout the 20-year period, but marijuana smokers did not.  Only the heaviest pot smokers (more than 20 joints per month) showed decreased lung function throughout the study.

"The more typical amounts of marijuana use among Americans are occasional or low levels," said Dr. Stefan Kertesz, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and principle investigator of the study.  "From the standpoint of being a scientist, these data suggest that low and moderate range use of marijuana do not do long-term harm."

But, he cautioned, the research should not be viewed as a green light to toke up. a primary care doctor, I see patients who have problems with drugs and alcohol," Kertesz said.  "This is a complicated substance that has a lot of potential effects on human life and well-being."

Among the study participants, the average pot smoker lit up two to three times per month. The average tobacco user smoked eight cigarettes per day.  Those who smoked less than the heaviest actually saw a slight increase in air flow and lung function.

January 11, 2012 at 08:23 AM | Permalink

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Comments

Marijuana may be comparably less injurious to pulmonary function than cigs, however, there are
at least 3 dubious aspects of the study:
(1) "average pot smoker…2-3..per month….average tobacco user…8 cigarettes per day" Really?

"The White House estimates that the average smoker goes through 18.7 joints per month,"

"[I]n an article in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.(12) It shows that over 20% of monthly marijuana users consumer more than 3 marijuana joints (cigarettes) PER DAY." www.drugscience.org.

So, possibly 20% smoke over 90 per month, whilst this study's representative group consumed 30x-45x less ? ? ?

(2) "Only the heaviest pot smokers (more than 20 joints per month) showed decreased lung function throughout the study."
It may be that the *average* pot smoker does indeed consume over 20 joints per month.

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 11, 2012 10:18:21 AM

I guess it depends on how you define "average pot smoker." 2-3 per month sounds a lot closer to the mark than 18.7. But that is partially because there are plenty of folks who indulge a couple times a year or once a month, at a party or on vacation. If you discount those people and don't define them as "pot smokers," then obviously the numbers rise. (I know some people who drink that way -- never have it in the house, don't go to bars, but have a beer or glass of wine a few times a year around the holidays or at weddings.)

I'm sure these results are reassuring to the many folks in that "occasional" category, though!

Posted by: Anon | Jan 11, 2012 10:49:23 AM

'"The White House estimates that the average smoker goes through 18.7 joints per month,"

Yeah, right and so White House opinions on this subject warrant serious consideration based on scientific analysis, please give us a break.

"[I]n an article in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.(12) It shows that over 20% of monthly marijuana users consumer more than 3 marijuana joints (cigarettes) PER DAY." www.drugscience.org."

Considering the number cited we can also assume that 80% of people regularly partaking do not consume anything near that number per day but at least 80% of tobacco smokers as a whole do consume more than 3 cigarettes a day contributing to a horrendous amount of untold health issues and expense to the taxpayer over the coarse of 20 years and that justifies keeping tobacco as a legal drug?

Posted by: comment | Jan 11, 2012 12:16:58 PM

"The White House estimates that the average smoker goes through 18.7 joints per month."

And a 1970s study of homosexual men found that they had an average of 500 lifetime sexual partners each. If someone estimates it, it must be valid.

In other news, 74% of statistics are made up.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Jan 11, 2012 2:06:47 PM

Irony: University of Alabama - Birmingham...The Blazers!

Posted by: Ala JD | Jan 11, 2012 2:11:40 PM

Regarding tobacco, do we really want to make another good/activity illegal?

John Stossel of "20-20" fame, provides data indicating that smokers live considerally shortened lives, draining less tax-payer resources during what would otherwise be their most expensive years.

Thus higher health care costs to society for a smoker in his 50s-60s,
are more than offset by no expensives in one's 70s-80s. It may be a wash, but consider this claim:

"Lung cancer is a cheap disease to treat because people don't survive very long," says Dutch economist Pieter van Baal.
{http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/health/05iht-obese.1.9748884.html}

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 11, 2012 2:31:29 PM

"Lung cancer is a cheap disease to treat because people don't survive very long," says Dutch economist Pieter van Baal. "

A Dutch 'ECONOMIST' commenting on the medical probabilities of a diseases' progression. That's almost as bad as citing a White House daily estimate ofn consumption by pot smokers.

Posted by: comment | Jan 11, 2012 7:25:48 PM

adamakis: "Regarding tobacco, do we really want to make another good/activity illegal?"

me: I'm sure that Uncle Phil and his personal servant in Congress, Eric Cantor will not allow that to happen.

but no one is talking about making tobacco illegal - they are talking about making marijuana legal. Big difference.

Erika :)

Posted by: virginia | Jan 12, 2012 1:13:18 PM

just responding to:
"and that justifies keeping tobacco as a legal drug?"

Who is Uncle Phil?

Posted by: Adamakis | Jan 12, 2012 1:24:51 PM

adamakis, Philip Morris Tobacco Co.

Posted by: virginia | Jan 12, 2012 5:15:18 PM

It's just a matter of freedom of choice.

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Posted by: cigarette sales | Jul 19, 2012 7:58:37 AM

That is not true a lot of places around the world know that it is more damaging,in Finland most of the smoker are using cigarette and weeds is not allow,now a days in Helsinki one of their popular cigarette is e-cigarette and base on study over 10 million are already using this cigarette.

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