CANNABIS smokers are more likely to be nicotine-dependent and their chances of quitting tobacco are significantly reduced, according to a new study from the Northern NSW Health District.
The study looked into a possible relation between tobacco and cannabis smoking.
Preliminary results from the study, by the health promotion research and evaluation team of the Northern NSW Health District, show that the high number of tobacco smokers in the North Coast may be related to use of cannabis.
In other words, more people fail to quit smoking tobacco if they also smoke cannabis regularly.
Avigdor Zask, program co-ordinator at the Health Promotion Unit, said “the percentage of adults 16 years or over who are currently smokers in Northern NSW is 16.6%. It is 14.8% for NSW.”
“In 2004, a number of possible causes for this higher rate were considered, with the most plausible cause being that people are becoming dependent on tobacco through a process called the reverse gateway.”
Young cannabis users who consume weekly or more frequently have an increased risk of starting tobacco use and subsequent nicotine dependency, Dr Zask said.
How early do you smoke your first cigarette of the day? If your first puff of tobacco happens within the first 30 minutes, health authorities classify you as a nicotine dependent.
The project, funded by the Federal Department of Health and Ageing, also found “regular users of both cannabis and tobacco also reported a higher rate of failure to quit tobacco in the 12 months leading to being surveyed, compared to those who only smoked tobacco”.
The qualitative arm of the study included interviewing regular tobacco and cannabis smokers living in the Northern Rivers.
A surprising revelation was that some who smoked mull (a mix of cannabis and tobacco) did not consider themselves tobacco smokers.
“The research revealed that mull and tobacco-only use are highly flexible, with substance substitution being frequently practised.
“Both qualitative and quantitative findings indicate that cannabis used as a mull with tobacco is strongly associated with increased tobacco smoking, nicotine dependence and difficulty in quitting use of both substances,” he said.
Mull was used to reduce the amount of cannabis smoked a day.
The problem was that those people ended up smoking more often and consuming tobacco, so the mull solution not only did not get them off the cannabis but also introduced them to tobacco dependence.
“Mull users saw cannabis as a good thing and tobacco as a negative thing, but used the mix mostly due to economical reasons.”
Nicotine replacement therapy for mull smokers who wish to quit tobacco would be useful. Taking steps to quit tobacco will improve health.