Americans incorrectly assume marijuana smoke is safer than tobacco, according to new study

Is smoking marijuana safer than smoking tobacco? Many adults in the U.S. think so, according to a new survey published in JAMA Network Open. The survey also reveals that people believe secondhand marijuana smoke is less harmful to both adults and kids compared to tobacco smoke. 

However, experts emphasize these are misconceptions. In fact, researchers say tobacco and cannabis smoke contain many similar chemical compounds that are recognized carcinogens. Moreover, smoking marijuana has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, particularly those affecting the head and neck.

“When you burn something, whether it is tobacco or cannabis, it creates toxic compounds, carcinogens, and particulate matter that are harmful to health,” lead study author Dr. Beth Cohen told CNN. “It’s the combustion that’s the problem, so this idea that because cannabis is ‘natural’ burning and inhaling it is fine, is just wrong.”

Interestingly, younger and unmarried respondents displayed an even more favorable perception of the safety of marijuana smoking over time. The research highlights that the increasing acceptance and reduced perception of risk associated with cannabis may lead to policy challenges and public health concerns.