Just as tobacco use causes risks of passive smoking, so secondhand marijuana smoke can cause people some problems.
Cannabis is the most widely abused illicit drug, in Canada. Smoking cannabis is the most common way by which people self administer this drug.
According to a CADUMS (Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey) report of 2009 - 10.6 % of Canadians, over the age of 15 – had used marijuana, at least once during the past year, compared with a recorded 11.4 % marijuana use by Canadians in 2007.
Cannabis is mainly a young people’s drug, with just over 26% of kids aged between 15 and 24, using marijuana, compared with only 7.6% of Canadians who are aged 25 or older.
Around 46% of cannabis users, use it less than once a month, with about 19.2 % using on a weekly basis, and a further 20.1 % using marijuana daily.
The implications of this survey, for the risks of secondhand marijuana smoke are that a considerable number of people in Canada, who do not smoke cannabis could be at risk of adverse effects due to inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke.
The article summarizes findings that have been made, linking chronic cannabis use to adverse outcomes in cognitive function, and mental health, cannabis risks of driving, and cannabis use by pregnant and nursing mothers.
Is cannabis smoke harmful?
According to research by CAMH (Center for Addiction and Mental Health), cannabis smoke contains more tar and toxic substances than tobacco smoke.
There are over 400 chemicals in marijuana. Cannabis toxicity is exacerbated when marijuana smokers inhale deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs, for a longer time than tobacco users.
All of the adverse side effects that can occur when smoking marijuana will to some extent be passed on by passive smoking.
The evidence for a link between secondhand marijuana smoke and cancer was determined by a panel of experts,convened by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (an agency of the World Health Organisation).
Secondhand cigarette smoke causes cancer, and there are at least 50 known carcinogens common to both tobacco and marijuana, making exposure to marijuana smoking at least as hazardous as to tobacco smoke.
It was fears about the possible side effects on stage crew, of breathing in voluminous amounts of cannabis smoke from the audience, that caused singer Britney Spears to stop a concert at the GM Place in Vancouver, BC in 2009, until the audience had put out their joints, and the air had cleared.
Britney, although no stranger to drug use herself, was concerned that stage crew, working at height, might become faint or dizzy as a result of breathing in secondhand marijuana smoke, that billowed up onto to the stage from stoned Vancouverites.
A report from the BBC news UK sets out in detail the findings of the Canadian research into the effects of side stream smoke from people smoking both tobacco and cannabis. Much of the secondhand smoke complained comes straight from the tip of the burning cigarette or joint – in most cases the toxic effects of side stream smoke are very much the same as for smoke that is deliberately inhaled.
Of concern are the effects of secondhand marijuana smoke on new born and young children, particularly when mother’s are regular smokers in the presence of their children.
Breathing in by children of secondhand smoke is linked to asthma, and to respiratory problems, increased irritability, and refusal to “settle”. Using cannabis durng pregnancy has been linked to low birth weight infants - low birth weight means undersized, and underdeveloped in many important ways.
Whereas previously it has been thought that the damage caused by secondhand smoking is at a superficial and respiratory level – a report by the Surgeon General, of the USA, is of great concern. In Table 5.1 of the report, it is clearly set out that side effects of side stream smoke are every bit as damaging as when smoke is deliberately inhaled.
In particular, children exposed to marijuana smoke might be more vulnerable to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death syndrome). childhood cancers, low birth weight and neuro developmental failures.
More information about the toxic effects of marijuana is also provided by the Cancer Council of Canada, a report that also reveals that although total marijuana use is relatively stable in Canada, cannabis use is rising among young people – with many having the perception that cannabis use is harmless.
People today, of all ages, need to understand that using marijuana is not safe, or harmless, and can be hazardous to your health.
Smoking marijuana is harmful to anyone who comes into contact with the smoke, whether it is the cannabis user, or some innocent bystander, perhaps an infant or a child of the cannabis smoker.
People wanting to give up cannabis, wanting to recover completely from addiction, will find what they need for complete recovery at comprehensive residential alcohol and drug detox and rehab centers, in Canada
Due to the research that has been conducted on the risks of secondhand marijuana smoke, cannabis users no longer have the excuse – that when people choose to smoke marijuana – they are only harming themselves.