Differences Between Smoking Cigarettes & Marijuana

Cigarette smokers may feel that their tobacco addiction is far less harmful than smoking an illegal drug such as marijuana. Marijuana smokers who abstain from tobacco sometimes boast that their drug of choice is safer than cigarettes. The truth is that both tobacco and marijuana have damaging effects. Those who smoke both cigarettes and marijuana suffer the compound consequences of two different drugs destroying their health simultaneously.

In the tobacco vs. marijuana debate, there is no clear winner.

Social and Societal Stigmas of Cigarettes vs. Marijuana

Marijuana remains illegal for recreational use, though Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, according to Drugs.com.

Cigarette smoking remains legal for adults over 18, although specific laws regarding its use vary from state to state. In Iowa, for example, smoking is illegal in most public places, including restaurants and bars, whereas the state of Pennsylvania still permits smoking in bars.

Both marijuana and tobacco use have social stigmas attached. Marijuana users are widely viewed as nonproductive drains on society. Cigarette smokers are frowned upon due to the effects of second-hand smoke, the litter caused by discarded cigarette butts and the drain on the health system caused by their addiction.

Health Effects of Cigarettes vs. Marijuana

The damage that tobacco smoking inflicts on health is well documented. The risks of lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and high blood pressure are much higher in tobacco smokers than in nonsmokers.

Marijuana contains 50 to 70 percent more carcinogenic hydrocarbons than tobacco smoke, and thus has the potential to cause cancer. However, Donald Tashkin, M.D., professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in Los Angeles, has found that marijuana use is not linked to an increase in lung, head or neck cancers. Tashkin surmises that this is due to a chemical within marijuana that kills off cells before they become cancerous.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that marijuana smokers experience respiratory disturbances similar to tobacco smokers, including coughs and lung infections. Also like tobacco, marijuana may increase the risk of heart attack due to its ability to raise blood pressure and heart rate.

Medically, marijuana has shown some promise in relieving pain and increasing appetite. The American Medical Association states that further research should be carried out to assess the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Psychological Effects of Cigarettes vs. Marijuana

The use of marijuana produces a euphoric feeling that lasts up to three hours, according to NIDA. Occasionally, the high produced by marijuana may cause unpleasant results, such as paranoia, panic and anxiety. Long-term use of marijuana impairs short-term memory and learning skills.

Tobacco smokers claim that smoking helps them to deal with stress, as well as helps them focus. This belief is more likely caused by the side effects of nicotine withdrawal, which include increased anxiety that is alleviated by the ingestion of more nicotine, according to Martin J Jarvis, of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College in London.

Both tobacco and marijuana use have been found to cause dependence. Addiction to either substance can result in psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms when the drug use ceases.

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