Healthy living

Cannabis health risks underestimated

Cannabis health risks underestimated Public think it is less harmful than tobacco

Most people underestimate the health risk associated with smoking cannabis, according to a new report.

A survey of more than 1,000 people by the British Lung Foundation (BLF) found that 88 per cent thought that smoking tobacco cigarettes was worse for your health than smoking cannabis ones. However, smoking cannabis carries a 20 times greater risk of lung cancer per cigarette than tobacco ones, the health charity warned.

A third of people also wrongly believed that cannabis does not harm your health, but the BLF report said there was strong scientific evidence to link smoking cannabis to serious health conditions such as tuberculosis, acute bronchitis, lung cancer as well as a weakened immune system.

The report said there was an "alarming disconnect" between the public perception of cannabis as a relatively safe drug, and the serious, even fatal impact it can have on the lungs of people who smoke it, particularly among young people.

Some 40 per cent of those surveyed aged under-35 thought that smoking cannabis did not pose a health risk.

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "It is alarming that, while new research continues to reveal the multiple health consequences of smoking cannabis, there is still a dangerous lack of public awareness of quite how harmful this drug can be.

"Young people in particular are smoking cannabis unaware that, for instance, each cannabis cigarette they smoke could increase their chances of developing lung cancer by as much as an entire packet of 20 tobacco cigarettes.

"This is not a niche problem – cannabis is one of the most widely-used recreational drugs in the UK, with almost a third of the population having tried it.

"We therefore need a serious public health campaign – of the kind that has helped raise awareness of the dangers of eating fatty foods or smoking tobacco – to finally dispel the myth that smoking cannabis is somehow a safe pastime."

The health charity called for a public education programme to raise awareness of the impact of smoking cannabis. It also called for increased investment for research into the health consequences of using cannabis.

This article was published on Wed 6 June 2012

Image © Richard Villalon -

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