The Association Between Cannabis and Tobacco - National Non-Smoking Week

How do we reconcile non-smoking messages in the era of legalized cannabis? Canada has been recognizing NNSW in Canada since 1988 (30+ years now) promoting important messages on the risks of smoking and contributing to the efforts that have driven national smoking rates down every year.  January 20 – 26 is National Non-Smoking Week, the risks of tobacco smoking are well known but do we understand the association between cannabis and tobacco?

The goals of NNSW include:

  • educate Canadians about the dangers of smoking;
  • prevent people who do not smoke from beginning to smoke and becoming addicted to tobacco;
  • Assist in the attainment of a smoke-free society in Canada

Health education professionals in Canada may have a trickier job now to educate people on the health risks of smoking while our country is commercializing and marketing cannabis.  

According to the most recent Statistics Canada data 16.2% of Canadians (2017) are daily/occasional tobacco smokers. Data released in August 2018 identified 16% of Canadians as cannabis smokers.  Cannabis smokers are not new but with the legalization of cannabis, they are now a group that can be monitored and measured and a group that may logically increase. Will the legalization of cannabis increase tobacco smoking rates or stall efforts to reduce tobacco smoking?

According to Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo there exists a strong and consistent association between tobacco use and cannabis use and the dual use of tobacco and cannabis is associated with an increased risk of adverse health effects compared with using cannabis alone. The Propel Centre published Tobacco Use in Canada and in 2017 added a special supplement, Cannabis in Canada.  

In 2018, a US study identified that cannabis use was associated with increased initiation of, persistence of, and relapse to cigarette smoking. Additional attention to cannabis use in tobacco control efforts and in clinical settings aimed at reducing cigarette smoking and smoking-related negative consequences may be warranted.

In these early stages of cannabis legalization it is important to continue efforts to reduce tobacco consumption and carefully monitor and measure the impacts of cannabis on tobacco smoking rates.

If you, or someone you care about, is considering quitting or reducing tobacco use, there are lots of supports out there.  Here are some recommended apps to support you, the Smokers Hotline is a great resource and your local pharmacist can advise you on Nicotine Replacement Therapy programs in your province.

Health QR is a software development company providing consumers with free mobile and web applications that connect them to their pharmacy medication profile.  Our approach to development is to engage with researchers and prescription customers to identify user-friendly solutions that improve medication management.  Health QR has developed adherence programs for IBD and Multi-Dose Vaccines and has three pending research proposals for managing chronic pain, improving medication literacy and monitoring adherence for patients living with dementia and their caregivers.