There are many reasons that people get into smoking weed these days. From seeking therapeutic treatment to simply enjoying the high, people use cannabis for all sorts of different purposes.
One of the little-discussed reasons that people decide to start smoking weed is to try and quit cigarettes. Like former alcoholics moving to cigarettes to satiate their old cravings, frequent cigarette smokers find themselves wanting to quit their bad habits and turn to marijuana for help.
However, is weed actually that much better for you? Are they as fundamentally different from one another as many weed aficionados would have you believe?
What Goes into Smoking Weed?
To most newbie smokers, switching from cigarettes seems like a no brainer. After all, smoking weed has essentially no negatives, right? Compared to all the significant problems with smoking tobacco, how could you make the conscious decision to prefer cigarettes?
However, smoking weed isn’t just a carefree and utterly natural process. There are elements that go into the creation of a weed joint that your lungs might not be okay with.
For starters, you can’t just hold onto your bud and smoke it that way. You need to roll it up in a joint. To do this, you need to use rolling papers, which means that, when you breathe in your weed, you are also breathing in particulate from all that rolling paper.
Additionally, many people find the taste of just marijuana in their joints to be too potent, so they mix it with tobacco. This means that many joints do actually contain a few cigarette ingredients as well, which carry with them their own element of risk.
The weed itself can also be a problem because it isn’t just a seamless, instant process to get the weed into your body. You need to burn it! This means that you need to inhale hot smoke into your lungs, which can carry with it a lot of risks.
How about smoking cigarettes? What happens when you smoke them?
What Goes into a Cigarette?
Cigarettes have been a commonplace habit for decades in the USA and elsewhere in the world, with it being more common to smoke than to not.
Smoking became such a regular thing that it started to become normalized. Everyone smoked, whether they wanted to or not. Peer pressure started making more and more people smoke from younger and younger ages, until basically every person you walked past in the street would be smoking.
But cigarettes aren’t just tobacco and nothing else – they are actually pretty harmful due to their ingredients. For starters, you have the same problem with marijuana joints in that you are smoking both rolling papers and a burning plant. However, instead of the more natural ingredients of a marijuana joint, cigarettes contain all kinds of different, strange ingredients.
To help increase the volume of the cigarette’s tobacco, manufacturers frequently add cocoa, licorice, and sugars to bulk it out, as well as spraying it with additional nicotine.
Tobacco itself isn’t very healthy either; it contains high levels of tar, a substance created from burning tobacco, which sticks to the inner linings of your lungs and induces all kinds of problems. It also contains a hefty dose of nicotine, which is what makes cigarettes so addictive.
So what are the health risks of both cigarettes and smoking marijuana?
Health Risks Associated with Cigarette Use
There is a very common idea that if you smoke a marijuana joint, you aren’t going to suffer any of the negative consequences that you would if you smoked cigarettes.
The list of cigarette negatives is an exceptionally long one – all kinds of illnesses and conditions seem to be caused by smoking. While this list contains the obvious cancers and lung problems, it continues on, all the way to the unknown potential for congenital disabilities and adulterated brain development in teenagers.
Furthermore, being under the constant spell of nicotine addiction can make regular life incredibly tricky, as you are forced to have to incorporate cigarettes into your life. When you are continually feeling the addictive cravings of cigarettes, everything else becomes a struggle.
It can also mess you up with regard to healthy dopamine levels, as you are continually seeking your next hit of nicotine.
It stands to reason that, since there are so many problems with cigarettes, there is no reason not to prefer marijuana, right? However, there are plenty of health negatives associated with marijuana usage, as well.
Health Risks Associated with Marijuana Use
No matter how much the pro-marijuana camp would like to believe it, there are plenty of reasons to avoid smoking marijuana based on health.
For starters, smoking anything whatsoever is inherently bad for you, especially for your lungs. One study by John A. Henry for the British Medical Association found that smoking marijuana can lead to many of the same lung illnesses as cigarettes can cause. Though it does not contain the same tar that cigarettes contain, it still has plenty of compounds and burning plant matter to damage your lungs.
Furthermore, Henry found that there are strong links between excess THC intake and elevated cardiovascular health risks. This means that, when you overindulge on marijuana, you could be putting your heart at risk.
Effects of Marijuana on the Brain
There is also a great deal of evidence that marijuana usage among teenagers and developing adults can result in significant brain development reduction.
A study by Ramo et al. for the Journal of Addictive Behavior found that people below the age of 20 using marijuana regularly were putting themselves at significant risk of damaging their brains. Though the precise mechanisms are not well understood as of yet, it appears that frequent weed usage lowers your brain’s ability to make connections and continue to develop normally.
There is also the inherent problem with smoking marijuana regularly as a hobby – it is hugely attention occupying. When you smoke anything recreationally – marijuana or cigarettes – you are choosing to utilize a chemical for your enjoyment. Whether that chemical is nicotine or THC, you are subjecting your body to mind-altering substances for the purpose of pleasure.
This might not have immediate physical side effects, but it can certainly slow down your growth as a person. Instead of smoking marijuana, you could be learning a new skill or discovering something new.
Cigarettes cause you to occupy so much time in attempting to satiate your addiction that you might never get the chance to enjoy many of life’s beautiful, unique experiences.
Is Smoking Weed Better for You Than Cigarettes?
Fundamentally speaking, weed and cigarettes should undoubtedly be looked at as very similar things. They both contain potentially harmful compounds, and they both require smoking to be appropriately enjoyed. Furthermore, they both require a vast amount of further research to understand them fully.
While marijuana and marijuana joints seem better for you than cigarettes, at least regarding their long-term physical side effects, they still are not perfect. You may not have as high a chance of developing lung cancer or any other type of serious illness when you smoke marijuana, but the opportunity isn’t zero.
If you are health conscious and want to avoid anything that could be potentially dangerous, you should steer clear of smoking anything all together. If, however, you just want the lesser of two potential evils, marijuana joints appear to win out in this battle.
The critical thing to remember is that, no matter what large groups may think, weed and cigarettes are not as entirely different as you might, at first, believe. There are pros and cons, strengths, and weaknesses of both. So, if you aren’t sure whether you want to risk your health at all, you might be best served by avoiding them altogether.
That, or just enjoy them moderately, the same way you should enjoy all things.