As someone who suffers from Asthma, I was always told that it wasn’t a sensible idea to smoke.
Perhaps it’s my age; I was born in the late 1980’s, well after the public health worries and anti-smoking movement began, into a world where a lot of people smoked, but at least they knew it was bad for them.
My parents and grandparents generations weren’t so lucky. It is easy to forget that until very recently people were encouraged by everybody to smoke, including their doctors.
“During the 1920s, Lucky Strike was the dominant cigarette brand. This brand, made by American Tobacco Company, was the first to use the image of a physician in its advertisements. “20,679 physicians say ‘Luckies are less irritating,” its advertisements proclaimed. The advertising firm that promoted Lucky Strikes had sent physicians free cartons of the cigarettes and asked them whether Lucky Strikes were less irritating to ‘sensitive and tender’ throats. The company claimed that its toasting process made its cigarettes a smoother smoke.”
Have you ever done research that made you feel a little bit sick? Reading all the “advice” from cigarette company ads from the 30’s to 50’s has left me with a bit of a tender stomach. At least these days there can be no denying that smoking tobacco is harmful to our health.
In fact, tobacco is responsible for some 400,000 deaths each year annually just in the United States of America, a nation with just over 325 million citizens((https://www.healio.com/hematology-oncology/news/print/hemonc-today/%7B241d62a7-fe6e-4c5b-9fed-a33cc6e4bd7c%7D/cigarettes-were-once-physician-tested-approved)). The number of deaths annually rises to over 6 million when you include the world tobacco death statistics.((http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_report/2011/en))
That’s why on 21st September 2016 I made the decision to give up tobacco, which until then was a fundamental part of my cannabis consumption process.
Now that’s just over a year ago, I feel qualified to share my thoughts and experiences on the subject.
I went from smoking spliffs containing around 50-60% tobacco to consuming only pure cannabis over the space of about a week.
Initially, I found this challenging; tobacco is supremely addictive, and it had even dug its claws into me, a non-cigarette smoker. I combatted this using an e-cigarette to reduce cravings, before switching my nicotine-containing mixture for a CBD one and abstaining from nicotine completely around 28th September 2016.
Was this week pleasant? Not particularly. But it showed me a couple of things:
1. How addictive tobacco actually is. As a cannabis smoker who also consumed tobacco with every hit, I was convinced I wasn’t addicted to tobacco. After all, I didn’t need it by itself. I could go for long periods without it and I didn’t crave tobacco, I just wanted to get high. Or so I thought.
2. How much better off I am without tobacco. One of the biggest dangers of tobacco is how slowly it kills you. People don’t die from smoking on the spot, they die from cumulative build-up over years and years, much too slowly for our brains to naturally assume danger. Even when we’re told, lots of people make a conscious decision to keep smoking, fully aware that it is at the very least probably shortening their life.
But the dangers don’t matter enough for millions of tobacco users to stop. I had an additional incentive: I believe my asthma also encouraged me to quit because I was getting shortness of breath directly from smoking. Most tobacco smokers experience a very slow degeneration of lung function; so slowly that it’s almost imperceptible as lung function degrades and the risks of various forms of disease increase. The centre for disease control and prevention in the US states that: “For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.”((https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm))
So I stopped.
A couple of days in and I was really feeling the cravings; so much so that pure joints weren’t hitting the sweet spot. It was at this point that I realised that my getting high cravings were actually my body crying out for nicotine.
I’m happy to say that from one week in it became much easier. One month in was also a big milestone for me, as after that point I’d say the smoking cravings themselves vanished and I became much more at ease with pure cannabis consumption.
Since then my cannabis consumption has been a lot less regular. It doesn’t feel habitual because I can choose when to get high, often waiting for a good part of the day before I indulge – that probably doesn’t sound that impressive but please bear in mind that I work in this industry, so I am constantly in contact with delicious, sweet-smelling cannabis.
I’ve even given up wake and bakes. I’m fortunate enough not to be a medical consumer who needs cannabis to function normally, and so I’ve been enjoying sober days, even at the weekends when I have slightly less responsibility.
And it’s great! Make no mistakes, I love getting high. The difference now is that it feels like now I’m choosing when to get high rather than being driven by a nicotine craving. I remember that this often took the form of an urge to get high which kicked in well before the previous effects wore off. It’s what leads to people smoking more because they want to get to a level which only a combination of cannabis and nicotine can provide.
It’s a trojan horse! It hijacks everything from logic to flavour, convincing consumers that they’d spend more if they quit tobacco (you don’t, I’ve checked) and even that cannabis tastes better alongside “a little tobacco in a spliff”. It doesn’t, that’s the addiction talking.
I made a video entitled “Quitting Tobacco: Was it worth it?” Of course, the answer is a resounding yes, and it has been great to hear the responses of people who have made the jump to smoking/vaping pure cannabis after watching that.
Although it can be difficult, it is definitely possible to quit tobacco and go on to recover some lung function as well as being generally healthier.
Cancer research reports on the percentage of self-reported successful quitters at 4 weeks after agreed quit date:((http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/risk/tobacco#heading-Eight))
England – 52%
Wales – 58%
Scotland – 38%
Northern Ireland – 57%
So, as a cannabis consumer with a website named “ISMOKE”, why should I try and convince you to stop tobacco, if that is what you should choose to consume?
Well, we have a tobacco-smoking epidemic amongst cannabis users.
In the UK, less than 1 in 5 adults smoke cigarettes, equating to around 9.4 million tobacco smokers.((http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/risk/tobacco#heading-One))
That figure rises to 77%, almost 4 out of 5 cannabis consumers who consume the most damaging drug alongside one of the safest every time they light up.((https://theconversation.com/cannabis-isnt-the-health-problem-the-tobacco-people-mix-with-it-is-77067))
Note that we’re not the worst in Europe, with up to 90% of cannabis consumers also rolling with Tobacco, but only 8% of Americans do the same. Joint tobacco and cannabis use seems to be more of a European issue.
It is easy to see how this problem has been allowed to grow.
A spliff, as all of you will undoubtedly know, is a mixture of cannabis and tobacco, often rolled in a King Size Rizla or other rolling papers.
I believe this to be the most common consumption method in the UK based on my own experiences and interactions with cannabis consumers. So from the get-go, new consumers are coming into contact with tobacco in their spliffs, even if they are not tobacco smokers previous to this point.
After a short spell of smoking spliffs, you can see hello to a shiny new tobacco addiction, although it may not manifest itself in the same ways as with a traditional cigarette smoker.
This happened to me. When I started picking up as a fresh-faced first year at university, the only way to smoke was to roll my herbs into a spliff.
And so I went from not smoking tobacco to smoking a 12.5g Amber Leaf or Cutters Choice pouch every few days to a week. And that habit didn’t stop for about 9 years.
The amount of late-night 24-hour petrol station visits to pick up tobacco just to smoke the weed I already had is astounding. These days all I need is a lighter and my bong, or some papers and a bit of cardboard for roach.
After tobacco addiction subsided, I found that the bong was my go-to method for cannabis consumption. Looking at the Global Drug survey you can see that this method is good at retaining “pure smokers”, although not as good as a pipe, with 94.2% of those surveyed who smoke a pipe smoking pure, as opposed to just 65% of bong smokers. Interestingly from this chart we can see that 71% of blunt smokers thought they were smoking pure cannabis when most of them weren’t, as the blunt skin (unless made from hemp – a new fashion) is traditionally crafted from tobacco leaves, meaning that although the inside is pure, you’re still getting all the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.
If I can persuade just one person to stop smoking tobacco and to learn to enjoy cannabis as is, then I’ll be a happy guy. I wish somebody was there to inform me of the best ways to consume when I was getting started with cannabis, but the education just wasn’t there.
If you have been reading this and some of it rings true, you may be thinking about how you can stop your own tobacco use as a cannabis consumer.
Here are some tips from me for your journey:
1. Start with a tobacco substitute in your joints
Going from adulterated to pure is going to be different. Get used to the idea of having smaller joints, confident in the knowledge that you’ll still be consuming the same amount of cannabis.
Try feminised hemp buds or Tree Leaf (which contains marshmallow leaf among other herbs) – there are plenty of tobacco alternatives so find what works for you. It’s a temporary step that will help transition you onto pure joints.
2. Don’t be afraid of the vape pens
Vaping is an excellent consumption method. It doesn’t release the harmful toxins associated with smoking and can be used as an intermediary step to cull tobacco cravings.
In fact, contrary to the scare stories we’ve been told, e-cigarettes have recently been named as one of the top ways of quitting smoking.
You can actually vape both dry herbs and eliquid that contains just cannabis extract and no nicotine.
3. The bong – or pipe – is your friend.
Try different consumption methods. OK, so I was lucky here – unlike some of my friends I’d never associated a bong with tobacco use. I’ll just be clear here – STOP PUTTING TOBACCO IN YOUR BONGS. That’s not what it’s meant for.
Always keep your pipes and bongs for pure cannabis use. When you quit tobacco you may find that smoking pure temporarily isn’t having as much of an effect. In reality, this is due to the fact that your body is crying out for the additional effect of nicotine. I found I could trick my cravings using a different consumption method, especially with a bong as the intensity and effects counterbalanced my urges to keep smoking.
4. It took me about one month…
The first week was hard. The first fortnight was also a challenge. And during the first month, honestly, I don’t think I enjoyed cannabis consumption as much.
But after that period, as the tobacco addiction faded I noticed that I was enjoying that pure taste more. And smoking less! I went from regular spliffs pretty much whenever I was at home, to these days consuming as and when I see fit. Yes, that’s still every day, but in much more moderation than I used to. And I’m not limiting myself. I’m just much happier with my high, and I enjoy dipping in and out of it rather than feeling a constant drive to remain in a perpetual state of stonedness. If you feel this way, chances are it’s the tobacco talking.
Hopefully, that has been some insight into what it has been like for me on my journey towards quitting tobacco, and the benefits that I’ve experienced after making the jump.
Am I a hypocrite for continuing to smoke cannabis while preaching about the dangers of tobacco? I don’t think so – with so many deaths annually from tobacco use and not one so far from cannabis, I am happy knowing that even if smoking isn’t the most healthy delivery method, I am not poisoning myself with the damaging effects smoking tobacco has on people.
However, I would advise all new cannabis consumers to try vaping cannabis rather than smoking, particularly if they are not smokers, as that’s even safer, relatively.
Thanks for reading.
You can also watch the video I made on quitting tobacco below: