Can Smoking Pot Cause Former Cigarette Smokers to Relapse?

New study suggests former smokers might want to rethink 420

SHORT VERSION

A new line of research suggests that former cigarette smokers run the risk of relapse by using marijuana.

LONG VERSION

Are you a former cigarette smoker? Trying to stay quit? If so, you wouldn’t be alone. Each year, millions of people try to stop smoking with the goal of living healthier lives.

And let me tell you, remaining smoke-free isn’t easy. I should know – I’m a former smoker who at one time was going through two packs a day.

That’s why a recent study related to smoking cessation caught my eye. Specifically, it was about how the use of marijuana can cause some people to relapse.

Appearing in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the City University of New York explored the responses from over 34,000 people regarding their use of marijuana and cigarettes.

What they found was straight forward: people who stopped smoking but used 420 were more likely to relapse. They also found that people who smoked pot were at increased risk of becoming cigarette smokers.

On some level, this kind of makes sense. Both involve inhalation and both involve a behavioral activity. And let’s be real – smoking pot can cause a person to feel more relaxed, which can impair judgement. I’m not saying that is true for everyone but it certainly is the case for some.

What’s interesting about this study is how it closely mirrors the findings of another line or research involving young vapers. In that investigation, scientists found that when teens used electronic cigarettes, they were more likely to move on to the real thing.

All of this begs some interesting questions: do acts of inhalation serve as cigarette smoking triggers or is it more about the substance itself?

Curious, I decided to talk to a few people via private message on the stop smoking support portal, QuitNet. In case you don’t know, they are the longest running support community of ex-smokers in the world.

What I learned – based on 10 quick and completely unscientific conversations, was that people who relapsed on their smoking cessation efforts with pot did so because they viewed both activities as one in the same.

As one 35-woman shared:

“I had stopped smoking for a year. When I was out with friends one weekend, someone had a joint. All of us took a hit.

The experience immediately reminded me of cig smoking. Before I knew it, I was buying a pack of Marlboros. To me, it wasn’t about the weed. Instead, it was about the behavior. And like the old saying goes – in for a dime, in for a dollar.”

And her revelation was similar to what I had heard from several others. For example, a 41-year old guy told me:

“It’s kind of hard to say no to cigarettes when you are taking hits off a joint. I don’t know anyone who has ever stopped smoking brand cigs [successfully] and continued using pot.”

So, there you have it, folks. The research is telling us that if you want to stop smoking cigarettes, it’s probably a smart idea to avoid 420.

Have you tried to quit smoking but continued using cannabis? If so, how did that go for you?

About John D. Moore 312 Articles
Dr. John Moore is a journalist and blogger who writes about a variety of topics. His interests include technology, outdoor activities, science, and men's health. Follow him on LinkedIn

1 Comment

  1. Yeah, no problem. The key is you have to hate smoking. If you still like smoking cigs, it’s too hard to quit. Once you decide that you hate it, it’s much easier. But cigs don’t get you high. i like the 420 because I like the high (not the smoking, tho). With cigs I don’t get high and I hate the smoking. So it works out. No cigs, but still doing the 420 (18 years!)

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