University of Washington School of Public Health

UW SPH News: Marijuana May Complicate Tobacco Cessation

Marijuana May Complicate Tobacco Cessation

05/31/2017
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Adults who have used tobacco and currently use marijuana are twice as likely as those who have never used marijuana to be continued tobacco users, according to a new study from the University of Washington School of Public Health. About 70 percent of adult marijuana users are also tobacco users, which may complicate tobacco cessation.

marijuana smoking photo
Photo: Flickr user Chuck Grimmett, Creative Commons license

In the study, published online April 29 in Addictive Behaviors, researchers assessed tobacco use and cessation among 558,372 adults in the United States according to their marijuana use status. That is, whether they currently use marijuana, have never used marijuana or used marijuana at least once in their lives.

“We do not yet know how the widespread legalization of marijuana for recreational or non-medical purposes will impact tobacco use and cessation,” said lead author Gillian Schauer, clinical instructor of health services at the School. “Tobacco use is still the number one cause of preventable death and disease in this country, and the overlap between tobacco use and marijuana use is substantial. If using marijuana makes it harder to quit tobacco, it could have important implications for tobacco control efforts.”

Data for this study came from adults who responded to the annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2005 and 2014, and reported having used tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco or snuff. Participants, all 18 or older, also reported on their history of marijuana use.

The findings show that, between 2005 and 2014, tobacco use declined and sustained tobacco cessation (or having quit for more than a year) increased among all marijuana user groups. However, the prevalence of tobacco cessation was significantly lower among current marijuana users. From 2013 to 2014, only 22 percent of current marijuana users who had ever used tobacco had quit, whereas 53 percent of former marijuana users and 65 percent of never marijuana users had quit tobacco for more than a year.

“Current marijuana users who continue to use tobacco differ demographically from those who have recent or sustained cessation by race and ethnicity, educational attainment, marijuana use frequency and current use of alcohol and other drugs,” the researchers wrote.

These findings can be used to inform public health surveillance activities as marijuana policies continue to evolve in cities and states across the U.S. Additionally, study authors suggest that ongoing research may be needed to identify ways to reduce tobacco use and improve cessation among marijuana users.