Vaping Cannabis May Reduce Tobacco Use
Vaping has been all over the news lately, especially with all of the research coming out of Portland State University, in my home state of Oregon. We have seen studies looking at the health benefits/losses of e-cigarettes, and we are starting to see some more research on BHO concentrates.
All of the available research has focused on the direct health consequences of vaping and not its effects in a more holistic view. A group of scientists researching addiction (to tobacco) has started to see a trend appearing in the U.S. and Europe that they believe is worth further investigation. The author of a letter to the editor published in the journal, Society for the Study of Addiction, believe that vaping cannabis, either whole plant or extract may reduce tobacco use and addiction.
The study cited by the letter to the editor aimed to compare differences in routes of administration (ROA) for cannabis in different regions of the world.
In Europe, the most common form of cannabis use is in a spliff, or part tobacco, part cannabis. This means of smoking marijuana helps to solidify a psychological relationship between cannabis and tobacco, typical Pavlovian conditioning.
According to the study, many Europeans are introduced to tobacco through smoking marijuana, an effect dubbed as “Reverse Gateway.” It should also be noted that smoking cigarettes is, in fact, more common in Europe than in the U.S. and Canada. Furthermore, the researchers noted that those who do vape cannabis tend not to mix it with tobacco concentrates (makes sense to me), and they found a lower incidence of tobacco use in areas of increased cannabis vaping.
But let’s take a step back right quick because anyone who’s anyone knows that correlation does not imply causation.
The authors realize this and are making the argument for further research. Surely the scientists have a hypothesis as to why this correlation exists. After all, they do believe there is a relationship.
As a practicing biochemist, my first instinct is to think there is a direct chemical relationship. But the nature of this phenomenon is believed to be of psychological association. Of course, this isn’t to say that a psychological association isn’t inherently physiochemical; after all, brain structure leads to behavior.
Since our friends across the Atlantic often mix their weed with their tobacco, there is a strong association between the two. When they are done smoking the wacky tobacco, they maintain regular tobacco use.
Since mixing e-juice with cannabis concentrates is less prevalent, vaping cannabis will not yield the same associations.
The authors of the letter speculate that the normalization of vaping cannabis may lead to a generation of cannabis users who are not exposed to tobacco or nicotine. Of course, things are never as simple as they may seem. Due to vaping (BHO) being a relatively new technology, more research needs to be done to ensure that we are not replacing one unhealthy habit with another. At the end of the day, we can only wish for the best, and hopefully, we will see this research funded in the coming years.