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New Medical Report States Secondhand Smoke From Bong Hits Worse Than Cigarette Smoke 

Photo: Grav/Unsplash

Remember that friend in high school who would politely decline every bong hit offered them?

Turns out that non-toking-teetotaler was still getting a rough deal.

The peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published research this week stating that the secondhand cannabis smoke from bong hits is particularly rich with fine particulate matter that can be damaging to the cardiovascular and immune systems.

The report reminds us that cannabis smoke already contains “Several hundred toxic chemicals, carcinogens, and fine particulate matter, many at higher concentrations than tobacco smoke.”

Despite this, it also claims that 27% of young adults believe inhaling cannabis smoke is safe. Perhaps because government-funded reports and major news outlets have been crying wolf about the devil’s weed for at least a century.

JAMA itself had to retract a previous report that youth cannabis use had declined following medical and adult-use cannabis legalization. JAMA also recently reported that the right to obtain cannabis legally is leading to “Cannabis Use Disorder” while its abilities to fight insomnia and anxiety were in question. Which, come on.

Nonetheless, it makes sense that strapping a bong to your face and inhaling burning weed smoke deeply could, possibly, not be the best thing for you. But it’s the dangers bong hits expose to others in your household that the latest study seems most concerned with.

According to the cohort study, endothelial dysfunction was discovered in rats after one minute of exposure to second-hand cannabis smoke, though the methodology is not explained.

Jack Herer’s famous expose, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” with assistance from Playboy and NORML, helped expose a previous Heath/Tulane University study that demonized marijuana’s effects on brain cells, revealing that the test primates were essentially asphyxiated with marijuana smoke, causing their observed brain damage.

None of which stopped many notable voices in the U.S. Drug War from stating that marijuana was proven to cause brain damage for many, many years. Ronald Reagan even said, “The most reliable scientific sources say permanent brain damage is one of the inevitable results of the use of marijuana,” which the L.A. Times printed.

But back to the bong hits. JAMA’s report notes that “cannabis bong smoking in the home generated four times greater PM2.5 concentrations than cigarette or tobacco hookah (waterpipe) smoking,” and that, surprise-surprise, past times such as hot-boxing your buddy’s VW bus are not especially great for you and your crew.

The greatest concern is for non-smokers in one’s household, especially for infants, children, and elderly grand people. A 15-minute bong toke session revealed more than twice the EPA’s threshold for hazardous air, leading to “an estimated mean daily concentration that greatly exceeds the average in cigarette-smoking homes, nonsmoking homes, and the US EPA daily standard.” However, there is one anomaly that poses a question to this study's finding: What if you're using that elusive gas mask bong that creates an airtight seal with only the bong and bong user?

As we look to a fruitful 4/20 season, the study is something to keep in mind, ultimately concluding that second-hand cannabis smoke at home “is not safe” and that it’s time to get over our misled convictions that weed smoke is somehow better for us than cigarettes, despite their known 250 poisonous gases, formaldehyde, benzene, arsenic, and rainbow of toxic metals.

It should be noted that the American Cancer Society itself has noted marijuana’s ability to help treat cancer patients and appears to be open to scientific studies that suggest “THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes” as well as slowing cancer growth and spread in some animal studies, research that goes back to 1974.

The bottom line: Be careful of exposing anyone you care about to the potential dangers of smoke. Or anything dangerous for that matter.

And perhaps more selfishly, JAMA, how the hell do we sign up for the next study so we, too, can support the efforts of global bong-science?

Hack-wheez-cough! 

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