If you had to choose between smoking marijuana and tobacco based solely on safety concerns, which would you choose? Would you decline both under the assumption that inhaling any kind of smoke is bad for you? Your answers to these questions would be interesting in light of a recently released survey demonstrating that Americans increasingly view marijuana smoke as safer than tobacco smoke.
As someone who has been covering medical and recreational cannabis for years, the thing that amazes me about this particular survey is that consumer responses are not based in any kind of scientific knowledge. Rather, people respond to such questions based on the messages they hear within the culture. If nothing else, the survey reveals just how effective messaging is – whether you are trying to promote marijuana or put a beat down on tobacco.
The War Against Tobacco
When I was a kid, virtually every adult I knew smoked. My mother smoked cigarettes while my father was a fan of cigars and the pipe. Both of my grandfathers smoked pipes, too. Smoking was normal and acceptable. But then came the war against tobacco that started in the 1980s.
Anti-tobacco activists joined forces with politicians and bureaucrats to turn tobacco into a monster. For years, the culture was bombarded with all sorts of messages detailing just how deadly smoking was. If that wasn’t enough, message creators also went after secondhand tobacco smoke.
The end result is that smoking rates worldwide are lower than they have ever been before. Not satisfied with virtually killing tobacco, those same anti-smoking advocates have since gone after vaping. They apply the same doom and gloom messages in an attempt to portray vaping as no safer than smoking.
Silence When It Comes to Marijuana
Strangely enough, there has been an almost deafening silence from the anti-smoking crowd when it comes to marijuana. I have yet to see a TV commercial suggesting the possibility of developing lung disease as a result of regular marijuana smoking. I have yet to hear any expert discuss all the toxic chemicals in marijuana smoke.
That is the only reasonable explanation for survey data that shows people believe marijuana smoke is safer than tobacco smoke. In 2017, 36.6% of surveyed consumers agreed that marijuana was safer than tobacco. Roughly 30% said the two had comparable risks. Four years later, 44.3% agreed that marijuana was safer. Simple math reveals a 21% increase over a relatively short amount of time.
Messaging Has Created the Cannabis Boom
It’s hard to deny the power of messaging in all things cannabis related. The cannabis boom itself is largely a product of effective messaging. Take Utah, where the Beehive Farmacy operates locations in Salt Lake City and Brigham City. According to Beehive officials, few thought Utah would ever get on the medical cannabis train. It is a solid red state with very conservative values.
To pro-cannabis advocates though, conquering Utah was a matter of messaging. Craft the right message, repeat it over and over again, and wait until you convince enough people to pass a ballot proposition. That is exactly what happened – and not only in Utah. It has happened across the country.
Whether you agree with state-legal marijuana or not, you need to tip your hat to the people behind the messaging. Very few industries have been as effective with their messaging as marijuana. Their messages have been so effective that few people consider the dangers of smoking marijuana, even though the culture has accepted tobacco smoking as one of the greatest evils of the modern era. Well done cannabis message creators!