Marijuana legalization could normalize smoking again, Canadian experts warn

Marijuana legalization could normalize smoking again, Canadian experts warn
From Global News - February 6, 2017

While Canadians may be anticipating the legalization of marijuana, experts worry that the movecould usher in the normalization of smoking again.

Health officials worked tirelessly for decades to warn consumers about the risks of smoking. In a new editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, a University of Toronto scientist asks if Canadians, health officials and policy analysts are considering how marijuana legalization could be a step backwards.

There are at least 33 known carcinogens in marijuana smoke and its been tied to cancer, respiratory problems and heart disease.

Smoking of anything is really bad for you, but in the public debate of legalizing marijuana, there is very little addressing of smoking, Dr. Robert Schwartz told Global News.

Hes executive director of the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit out of the Toronto universitys Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

One of the biggest accomplishments of tobacco control was to de-normalize the act of smoking so theres a fear that as smoking of marijuana becomes more accepted, the act of smoking on a whole will become more accepted, he said.

READ MORE: How will legal pot be sold? Three things that might happen, and one that wont

Hands down, cigarette smoke is worse for your health. It contains hundreds of chemicals compared to marijuana smokes 33 known carcinogens. But it doesnt excuse people from thinking twice about the smoke theyre inhaling from pot, Schwartz said.

Government officials shouldnt suggest smoking marijuana in its legislation, he suggested, but they should emphasize the importance of promoting other options such as vaping or edibles.

If youre going to use marijuana, dont smoke it, he said.

Still, edibles have faced their fair share of scrutinyconsumers accidentally consume too much, and even worse, the product gets into the hands of children. This could be easily rectified with careful warning labels, training and awareness campaigns, Schwartz said.

READ MORE: Digesting legal weedthe hidden risks of eating marijuana

We know from research on vaping e-cigarettes that its not benign. We dont want to encourage people to vape however if the choice they have is between smoking marijuana and vaping, vaping would be better, almost certainly from what we know, he said.

Schwartz said its pretty incredible that the government allows smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes and suggests there are no circumstances in which marijuana should be smoked for patients. There are side effects at play, too.


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