In a press release on April 14, 2005, the Marijuana Policy Project has decried the latest Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) print ad for not only being highly inaccurate (contradicting govenrment-sponsored studies) but also for seemingly lauding cigarettes in comparison.
The ad reads: “one joint can deliver four times as much cancer causing tar as one cigarette” which is true, taken almost verbatim from the Institute of Medicine Study on marijuana. What the ad fails to mention is the sentences that follow that claim. Don’t worry, I’ve taken the liberty of looking it up:
The difference is due primarily to the differences in filtration and smoking technique between tobacco and marijuana smokers. Marijuana cigarettes usually do not have filters, and marijuana smokers typically develop a larger puff volume, inhale more deeply, and hold their breath several times longer than tobacco smokers. However, a marijuana cigarette smoked recreationally typically is not packed as tightly as a tobacco cigarette, and the smokable substance is about half that in a tobacco cigarette. In addition, tobacco smokers generally smoke considerably more cigarettes per day than do marijuana smokers.
If the IOM study is correct, then a typical joint would deposit about twice the amount of tar on the smoker’s lungs as one cigarette. Add to this my purely anecdotal (though observedly true) claim that most joints are not smoked solely by one person, and we’ve effectively quelled the discrepancy in tar claimed by the ONDCP.
But let’s not stop there.
Taking the evidence in the study one step further, if cigarette smokers smoke more cigarettes per day than marijuana users smoke joints, then cigarette users are getting much more tar than marijuana users. The study also says that if filtration of joints were as widespread as filtration of cigarettes, then the amount of tar loosed by one joint would be equal to that of one cigarette.
I’m still not done.
The IOM study also researched the rates of dependence in different drug users. Of the 76% of the general population that have ever used tobacco, 32% of them became dependent. In comparison, of the 46% of the general population that had ever tried marijuana, only 9% of those became dependent. Heroin scored in at a 23% dependency rate; 9% lower than that of tobacco! In fact, marijuana tied for the lowest dependency rate of all the drugs tested. This is notable because the carcinogenic effects of both marjuana and cigarette tar both need prolonged exposure to either drug in order to cause the development of lung cancer. Therefore, since cigarette users stand about three times the chance of becoming dependent as marijuana users, marijuana users also have less of a chance of actually developing lung cancer than tobacco users.
This is not to mention the language used in the ONDCP ad. The ONDCP claims that it is wrong to think that “smoking pot is less likely to cause cancer than a regular cigarette.” This is totally baseless, as no study has even attempted to say that marijuana is more likely to cause cancer than cigarettes. Also claimed as wrong is the statement, “You may have even heard some parents say they’d rather their kids smoke a little pot than get hooked on cigarettes.” Well, if all other things are equal, then a “little pot” is actually less carcinogenic than “get[ting] hooked on cigarettes.”
To quote the ONDCP’s ad against them, their facts are “wrong, and wrong again.”
This is your tax dollars at work, folks.