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Where Cigarettes Go, Pot Follows

Last updated: 04/12/2019
Author: Medical Review

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Many tobacco users console themselves with the thought: “At least I am not using drugs.” Even if one can convince themselves that tobacco use involves limited dangers (which isn’t true), users also have to convince themselves that they won’t move from tobacco to drugs.

Data demonstrates both the inherent danger of tobacco use and the likelihood that users will go on to be marijuana users. Users of both face a host of related health problems and they put their very lives in jeopardy because of their unhealthy habits. For users in states that have not legalized marijuana, users also compromise themselves legally.


A 2013 study titled “Trends in Tobacco and Marijuana Use Among College Freshman,” hoped to address the lack of studies that examine the course of tobacco and marijuana use as adolescents enter college.

Using a longitudinal study (one that examines the same variables over and over), the authors evaluated patterns of tobacco use and their relationship with later marijuana use among college freshman.

The study concretely established individuals who are current tobacco users before entering college are more likely to smoke marijuana. In addition, smokers of both also increase their tobacco consumption, increasing the risks associated with that behavior.

Cigarette Smoking Dangers

Where Cigarettes Go

College students who smoke cigarettes are more likely to begin smoking marijuana than nonsmokers.

Certainly, no one can deny the dangers of tobacco use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report:

  • Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • Cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States. This is nearly one in five deaths.
  • Smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
    • Illegal drug use
    • Alcohol use
    • Motor vehicle injuries
    • Firearm-related incidents
  • More than 10 times as many U.S. citizens have died prematurely from cigarette smoking than have died in all the wars fought by the United States during its history.
  • Smoking causes about 90% (or 9 out of 10) of all lung cancer deaths in men and women. More women die from lung cancer each year than from breast cancer.
  • About 80% (or 8 out of 10) of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are caused by smoking.
  • Cigarette smoking increases risk for death from all causes in men and women.
  • The risk of dying from cigarette smoking has increased over the last 50 years in men and women in the United States.

And, these facts don’t even begin to cover the links between cigarette smoking and higher risks for cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancer, poor child development, diminished reproductive health, poor oral health, and decreased immune function. Every single one of these negative outcomes is supported by scientifically gathered facts.

When the dangers of marijuana use are added on top of the risks associated with tobacco use, users find themselves facing some daunting health challenges.

Marijuana Dangers

The National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA identifies a number of effects associated with marijuana use. In the short-term, users face:

  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • impaired memory

Although these seem very benign, impairment can lead to dangerous activities. For example, marijuana use and the resulting impairment lead users to exercise less caution in regard to sex, thus increasing the risk of contracting disease or producing a pregnancy. In addition, driving while impaired is a huge concern.

Long-term, the NIDA identifies mental and physical risks:

Physical effects

  • Breathing problems. Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and frequent marijuana smokers can have the same breathing problems that tobacco smokers have. These problems include daily cough and phlegm, more frequent lung illness, and a higher risk of lung infections. Researchers still do not know whether marijuana smokers have a higher risk for lung cancer.
  • Increased heart rate. Marijuana raises heart rate for up to 3 hours after smoking. This effect may increase the chance of heart attack. Older people and those with heart problems may be at higher risk
  • Problems with child development during and after pregnancy. Marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to increased risk of both brain and behavioral problems in babies. If a pregnant woman uses marijuana, the drug may affect certain developing parts of the fetus’s brain. Resulting challenges for the child may include problems with attention, memory, and problem-solving. Additionally, some research suggests that moderate amounts of THC are excreted into the breast milk of nursing mothers. The effects on a baby’s developing brain are still unknown.

Mental effects

Long-term marijuana use has been linked to mental illness in some users, such as:

  • temporary hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they are not
  • temporary paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • worsening symptoms in patients with schizophrenia (a severe mental disorder with symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking)

Marijuana use has also been linked to other mental health problems, such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • suicidal thoughts among teens

If you or someone you love are using tobacco and marijuana, you need to quit as soon as possible. Neither are healthy or safe.