Hand with a latex glove holding a cannabis leaf

The science proves it – smoking tobacco is worse than cannabis

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A new study published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research has found that smoking cannabis exposes a person to fewer toxins than smoking tobacco.

The study compared the urine of fifty-three people who described themselves as smokers. Sixteen of the participants exclusively smoke cannabis, eighteen of the participants exclusively smoke tobacco, and nineteen of the participants smoke a mixture of tobacco and cannabis. 

Researchers in the study compared the urine of these three groups of participants on two different occasions. The first occasion was during a regular day and the second occasion was after the participants had smoked their substance of choice. Researchers then compared the results of both urine samples. 

This led researchers to conclude that exclusively smoking cannabis exposes a person to fewer harmful chemicals than smoking tobacco or a mixture of tobacco and cannabis. 

Co-users and (exclusive tobacco) smokers demonstrated comparable levels of biomarkers of exposure to harmful constituents despite smoking similar amounts of tobacco. (Exclusive cannabis) smokers demonstrated lower levels of toxicant exposure for most biomarkers.

Specifically, the participants who exclusively smoke cannabis were found to have the lowest levels of carbon monoxide, nicotine, NNAL (also known as ‘metabolites of 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone’) and all four of the mercapturic acids researchers measured. Mercapturic acids are a type of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC). 

All of these toxins can be harmful to you.

Participants who smoke a mixture of cannabis and tobacco were found to have similar levels of these toxins. This tells us that the toxins could be from tobacco, not cannabis. 

It’s also interesting to note that the participants who smoke tobacco or tobacco and cannabis were also found to have 2-hydroxypropylmercapturic acid in their urine (2-HPMA). 2-HPMA is a marker of exposure to propylene oxide, which is a carcinogen.

The cannabis-only smokers did not have 2-HPMA in their urine. 

While this study only included fifty-three people, the results disprove the idea that smoking cannabis exposes someone to as many toxins as smoking tobacco. While smoking cannabis is still not great for you, it seems significantly safer than smoking tobacco (if you discount the legal risk, of course). 

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