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PJ Online | PJ Letters: Cannabis

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The Pharmaceutical Journal
Vol 269 No 7226 p782
30 November 2002

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Letters to the Editor

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Treat BLF report with caution

From Ms A. Sandford

Claims by the British Lung Foundation that cannabis is as hazardous as tobacco (PJ, 16 November, p704) should be treated with considerable caution. The comparison between cannabis use and tobacco is flawed because the report does not address patterns of consumption nor does it examine the most common health impacts.

The two studies on which the claim that cannabis causes as much harm as tobacco is based only examined a limited range of symptoms and did not estimate the risk of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, the main fatal lung disease caused by smoking tobacco.

Secondly, the report fails to address one of the most important factors in lung disease risk, namely years of lifetime exposure. Because nicotine is so addictive, it is not unusual for a smoker to consume 20 cigarettes a day for 40 years. But such heavy and sustained cannabis use is rare. Any comparison of risk should include the different ways the substances are used over a lifetime. The three cannabis joints to 20 cigarettes ratio cannot be substantiated.

No one is arguing that cannabis is harmless but when comparisons are made between tobacco and cannabis it is important to keep the harm in perspective.

Amanda Sandford
Research Manager
Action on Smoking and Health

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