Cigarette smokers 10 times more likely to use marijuana daily, study finds

NEW YORK — If you smoke cigarettes, there’s a good chance your desire to light up doesn’t revolve solely around nicotine. A new study finds that cigarette smokers are significantly more likely to use marijuana on a daily basis.

Researchers at Columbia University looked at data on over 725,000 Americans, aged 12 and older, who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2002 and 2014, to try to establish the relationship between tobacco and marijuana consumption.

Woman smoking cigarette
A new study finds that people who smoke cigarettes are 10 times more likely to use marijuana on a daily basis. (Photo by Stas Svechnikov on Unsplash)

Daily marijuana use was ten times more common among the individuals studied who smoked cigarettes, the researchers found, a trend that was even more disproportionate among young smokers.

“While we found that daily cannabis use and cigarette smoking were strongly linked among all subgroups, the most striking finding in daily cannabis use was among youths aged 12 to 17 years,” explains Dr. Renee Goodwin, the study’s principal investigator, in a university news release. “Nearly one-third of youth who smoke cigarettes reported using cannabis every day. In contrast, less than 1 percent of youth who did not use cigarettes reported daily cannabis use.

“We are not aware of any previous reports illustrating that daily cannabis use in youths occurs nearly exclusively among those who smoke cigarettes,” she adds.

For the purposes of classification, participants who self-reported having consumed fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime were deemed “never smokers”; those who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes and at least one in the previous 30 days were “current smokers”; those who had smoked during at least one day, yet fewer than 30 days of the month prior were “current non-daily smokers”; and those who had smoked each day in the prior month were “daily smokers.”

Interestingly, everyday marijuana use was more prevalent among those considered non-daily cigarette smokers than daily ones.

“Using marijuana as an alternative substance is viewed as less addictive, less harmful, and carrying less stigma than cigarettes,” Goodwin says. “Some clinical data suggest that marijuana lessens the experience of nicotine withdrawal, and people who quit smoking cigarettes might substitute marijuana to lessen their withdrawal symptoms.”

Although smoking no longer carries the appeal it once did, its decline has decelerated in recent years.

“It is conceivable that this stunted decline in cigarette use is owing, in part, to the substantial increase in daily cannabis use among smokers,” Goodwin argues.

Goodwin et al. published their findings in the January 2018 edition of the American Journal of Public Health.