This week on ISMOKE we are taking a look at why we British have a propensity to mix our cannabis with tobacco, as well as where we acquired this antiquated practice and what you can do to reduce the associated harms of mixing your cannabis with tobacco and hopefully ultimately quit altogether.
It is difficult to trace the genesis of our affair of combining the two substances.
The most commonly held belief is that it arises from the fact that most of the cannabis that was available in the UK in preceding decades had been in the form of hashå, most commonly “soap bar” which when consumed in a Spliff would require another combustible medium to burn and smoke. Seeing as tobacco was already a popular and widely available drug in the UK, their marriage seems in hindsight somewhat inevitable.
As the years have passed the technology and expertise required to grow cannabis indoors became more widely available, and thus the popularity of the floral form of cannabis became far more ubiquitous over the coming years, eventually eclipsing the hash trade altogether! It seems to be a continuation of this archaic practice that has lead us as a culture to continue the consumption of this cocktail of smokable materials long after the actual need to combine them has ceased.
These days you will hear many reasons and attempted justifications from tobacco users as to why they continue this detrimental routine;
“I consume less”, “It lasts longer”, “I save money by putting less in” These things are simply not true (and trust us, it’s the nicotine addiction talking!): if you are combing the two drugs then the nicotine in the tobacco will constantly induce cravings to consume more tobacco. You’ll find yourself desiring another joint while still rather stoned from the last one, leading to increased consumption and cost.
“It tastes better” Again this isn’t true, as the taste is actually altered by the brain to interpret it as pleasurable because after all, you are getting your nicotine fix. Once you’ve quit smoking the taste of tobacco becomes foul, as does the smell.
“It burns better” as discussed above this is a throwback, as well grown, dried and cured cannabis burns smoothly when rolled well. If you are still having issues with inconsistent burning you can always purchase some slow burning skins. Also, another tip for a pure joint: try and roll with minimum 0.4-0.5g evenly-ground plant material to ensure a crisp, even burn. If you want to use less than this you can use a Green Spiral or smoke through a bong.
There have been many articles written as of late discussing harm reduction around cannabis consumption in the UK from all kinds of media opponents, the Daily Mail, The Telegraph and even the Sun evidence that the tides are turning and that soon a great flood of knowledge will wash away the myths and lies spread in ignorance.
A great example of this, is this article that was recently featured in the Daily Mail written by York University lecturer Ian Hamilton. In the article Mr. Hamilton advises that if young people wish to negate the detrimental effects of smoking cannabis then they should immediately stop adding the highly habit forming and known carcinogen, Tobacco to their Joints.
This and other articles serve to highlight the fact that a great number of the perceived harms associated with Cannabis consumption is actually from the archaic practice of mixing it with such a destructive substance as tobacco.
The harms of tobacco are finally being openly discussed, after several decades of bribery, misinformation and clever marketing which lead to millions suffering with dependence issues and having killed tens of millions of its users while cannabis has never killed a single consumer.
Unfortunately, some of the old “Reefer Madness” propaganda still permeates today, and it will likely take many more years to reach the same point of public awareness of what cannabis is and how it actually effects its consumers.
To most of the mainstream media and the novice among us both substances are equally as detrimental to the body, Equating the effects of cannabis with that of tobacco is incredibly misleading and harmful to the individual and society.
Not all smoke is created equal, and cannabis smoke has been shown time and time again to do no or negligible damage to the lungs, compared to tobacco smoke which is a known carcinogen and is linked to many respiratory illnesses, here are two of the most common and most deadly.
Lung Cancer more people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. Tobacco smoke is the number one risk factor for developing lung cancer and it’s responsible for over 85% of lung cancer deaths! Source. Contrast this with the growing research that cannabis causes apotheosis in cancer cells.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an obstructive lung disease that makes it incredibly hard to breathe. It causes serious long-term disability and early death.
Tobacco is linked to 80% of these diagnoses were as cannabis has been known for decades to be a Bronchodilator.
You can further reduce any potential risk to the lungs by utilising alternative means of consumption. Using methods such as vaporising, ingesting caps or tinctures, suppositories, balms and edibles all allow for the maximisation of the benefits of cannabis while avoided and potential irritation that the respiratory system could experience from poorly grown or flushed cannabis. The most effective harm reduction here is to grow your own, as it allows you control over potency and to avoid any chemicals that may otherwise have been used in the cultivation process.
We’ve also already previously discussed the misconception around Cannabis consumption and psychosis here on ISMOKE and there is a growing body of evidence to support the hypothesis that it is tobacco being mixed in joints that increase the individual’s risk of psychosis. I won’t go any further into this myth here, only as far to say smoking pure greatly reduces your risk of psychosis.
Do not forget that blunts are tobacco they’re the leaves of the tobacco plant and contain the highly habit forming drug Nicotine.
There are now many alternatives being produced to reduce the cannabis consumers exposure to tobacco replacing the classic blunt skin with Sugarcane, Palm, Banana and other leaves.
There are also a growing number of tobacco alternative mixes and blends including combinations of many herbs such as; marshmallow leaf, mint, hemp, Damiana, Papaya, Hazel nut, Eucalyptus, Sage etc.
I understand that nicotine dependence is a horrible affliction having been a user for well over a decade but there are now many ways to quit.
The NHS, which spends £5 Billion a year treating smoking-related illnesses, offers Nicotine maintenance tools such as patches, gums, oral sprays but these only seek to perpetuate your dependence on the drug instead of fighting to stop its consumption as well as the growing number of shops opening up selling nicotine vape “juices” in brightly coloured bottles and fruity flavours not unlike the “Alco-pop” craze of the early part of this century which saw alcoholic beverage companies creating drinks effectively advertised at teenagers.
There is growing evidence that Cannabidiol (CBD) can help deal with the cravings and difficulties surrounding quitting tobacco (Read more here) and a great deal of anecdotal evidence that THC is also rather useful in treating Nicotine dependence and wider drug bonding issues.
There is also a somewhat controversial method that I and others have been utilising to cease smoking. Taking Psychedelics to quit smoking is a growing practice with an increasing body of supporting evidence around the world. Psychedelics are going to change the face of drug dependent practices.
So ultimately there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to the question why we as a culture tend to consume our cannabis in joints mixed with tobacco. We are, however, learning more every day about the detrimental effects of tobacco, and that ultimately the best way you can reduce the harms of cannabis consumption is by consuming it pure.