A study explored perceptions of the effects of secondhand smoke from cannabis and tobacco and found that most participants believed cannabis consumption posed fewer health threats than tobacco use. They also found that views favoring the safety of cannabis over cigarettes increased over time. Cigarette use is decreasing while more American adults use legalized medical or recreational cannabis. The researchers published the findings in JAMA Network Open.
The longitudinal study used a web-based survey called the Ipsos KnowledgePanel to collect data in 2017, 2020, and 2021. The researchers analyzed data from March 2021 through June 2023. 5,035 participants (mean age 53.4 years and 50.7% male) completed three surveys featuring questions on tobacco and cannabis risk questions.
The participants' views showed perceptions that cannabis smoke exposure was safer than tobacco intensified over time. In 2017, 36.7% of participants believed cannabis use was safer than tobacco, but this percentage jumped to 44.3% in 2021. The researchers observed a similar pattern for secondhand cannabis smoke. In 2017, 35.1% responded that cannabis smoke exposure was safer than tobacco secondhand smoke 2017, but this percentage rose to 40.2% in 2021. Younger, unmarried participants were more likely to believe cannabis was safer than tobacco cannabis use over time. Participants were also more likely to rate secondhand smoke exposure to believe cannabis smoke was somewhat safe in adults (12.6%), children (4.8%), and pregnant women (5.3%).
Since perceptions of safety are essential influences on substance use and public policy, medical professionals advocate for health education campaigns to educate the public about the potential risks of cannabis smoke exposure. Researchers at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) interviewed 4,800 Los Angeles tenants and 176 multi-unit housing owners. They found that 49% of tenants reported exposure to drifting secondhand smoke from tobacco (39%), cannabis (36%), and e-cigarettes (9%). Educational programming will raise awareness of the importance of following public health policies that promote personal and community wellness.