A Strange Blend: Why Are Europeans Mixing Cannabis and Tobacco?
This article was originally published on Leafly.
Cannabis doesn’t carry the sort of health hazards tobacco does, a majority of studies say. But that doesn’t change the European habit of mixing the two. It’s something North American cannabis consumers don’t often do: even cigarette smokers in Vancouver or L.A. tend smoke their flower pure, strictly separating nicotine and cannabinoids. So where does this difference come from?
To answer the question, let’s go back in time to the cannabis renaissance of the 1960s and ‘70s. Consumers in Europe at the time almost exclusively smoked hashish, often crumbling it into cigarettes, as hardly anyone was aware of the dangers of nicotine and smoking tobacco. The vast majority of cannabis consumers in the U.S., on the other hand, overwhelming had access only to dried flower, which could easily be used to roll pure joints.
These differences influenced the size of what was being rolled in North America and Europe. In the U.S. and Canada, pure “mini-joints” became the standard, while on the continent a king-size joint is preferred. A European-sized joint that contains only cannabis might contain 1.5 grams to 2 grams of flower — far too much for most. An American joint, on the other hand, contains about as much herb — about 0.2 grams to 0.5 grams — as a European mixed joint (often called a spliff in the U.S.), but without the nicotine. Scientists have even pinpointed the average amount of cannabis in an American joint at 0.32 grams. In Germany, the Netherlands, or Denmark, that amount of cannabis is typically mixed with another gram or so of tobacco, depending on personal preference.
Not only does consuming a cannabis–tobacco blend affect your health more than pure flower, it also complicates efforts to gauge the health effects of cannabis itself. The legalization debate often revolves around the dangers of “smoking,” because almost every European study on cannabis is not about smoking it pure but about cannabis mixed with tobacco. Even in medical programs, little attention is paid to whether patients smoke pure. That means that Europeans who use cannabis alone has to justify the consequences of a substance that has little to do with cannabis.
Even without tobacco, smoking is the unhealthiest form of any medical application. Yet other, healthier forms of consumption, such as vaporization or edibles, seem to catch on much more slowly in Europe. That’s in part because tobacco has long been engrained in European culture; as cannabis grew in popularity among Europeans, that affected how people chose to consume. In other cultures, where cannabis has been part of everyday life for millennia, people consume orally or at least smoke cannabis pure.
Mixing tobacco into a joint increases the addictive risks immensely. Many casual users have only begun to smoke cigarettes because they use tobacco for their joints. “Without cannabis I have no problems, but I then smoke more cigarettes” — you’ll never hear such a statement from a pure-cannabis consumer. Doctors in Germany or the Netherlands treating cannabis patients are often unaware of this phenomenon and fail to advise patients to quit tobacco— or at least to separate the consumption of both drugs so the positive effects of cannabis remain intact. The unfortunate reality is that in most instances in Europe, the pairing of cannabis and tobacco simply isn’t discussed.
Last but not least, pure cannabis acts quite differently than a cannabis–tobacco blend. Patients report that the combination of nicotine and cannabis can lead to pain relief and relaxation, but very often they note fatigue as a negative side effect.
All these facts should be worrying enough for European cannabis fans to reflect on their consumption habits. To make things worse, there’s the political aspect. Prohibitionists use the dangers of the legal drug nicotine to protest against legalization of cannabis: “How can we have ever stricter laws to control tobacco and at the same time legalize cannabis?”
Professor Donald Tashkin has been a leading American pulmonologists for decades. In the past he was a vocal supporter of cannabis prohibition. Tashkin was convinced that smoking cannabis flowers created a high risk of developing lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). At one point, he was convinced that cannabis and lung cancer had a causal relationship worse than tobacco.
But more recent evaluations of long-term studies, however, made him change his mind in 2009: “Early on, when our research appeared as if there would be a negative impact on lung health, I was opposed to legalization because I thought it would lead to increased use, and that would lead to increased health effects,” he has said. “But at this point, I’d be in favor of legalization. I wouldn’t encourage anybody to smoke any substances, because of the potential for harm. But I don’t think it should be stigmatized as an illegal substance. Tobacco smoking causes far more harm. And in terms of an intoxicant, alcohol causes far more harm.”
If the legislators take their task to protect public health seriously, European studies that evaluate the risk potential of pure cannabis consumed in various forms (smoking, vaporizing, edibles) have to be undertaken. These studies should take the international state of research into account, focusing on safer ways of consuming.
Michael Knodt is Leafly’s Germany correspondent.A Strange Blend: Why Are Europeans Mixing Cannabis and Tobacco? This article was originally published on Leafly. Cannabis doesn’t carry the sort of health hazards tobacco does, a majority
What is a spliff?
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- Spliff definition
- Why is it called a spliff?
- Should I roll a spliff?
- Benefits of spliffs
- Do spliffs get you higher?
- Disadvantages of spliffs
If you’re new to cannabis culture, you probably already know what joints and blunts are, but you may not have heard of a spliff.
Here you’ll learn what a spliff is, how the spliff got its name, and the possible benefits and drawbacks of smoking a spliff.
Similar to a joint rolled in white cigarette paper, a spliff has the same appearance but with an added twist: it contains both cannabis and tobacco mixed together. Blunts, which are typically rolled in brown cigar paper, also contain tobacco, but spliffs have much higher concentrations. Spliffs, then, may be considered hybrids of joints and blunts.
A spliff has the same appearance as a joint, but with an added twist: it contains both cannabis and tobacco mixed together. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
The strong tobacco infusion often leads to a more energetic buzz for users. Spliffs are especially popular outside of the United States, notably in Europe, where many users enjoy a combination of tobacco and marijuana for their smoking experience.
In short, spliffs are cannabis cigarettes with a tobacco twist.
Why is it called a spliff?
The word has West Indian origins and may have been coined in Jamaica. However, in Jamaica a spliff refers to a cigarette containing only marijuana, not tobacco. The term is commonly used in Jamaican English slang to refer to a joint that may be especially large or potent. The exact meaning of “spliff” is unknown, unlike the meaning of the word joint, which derives from the French verb joindre translated as “to join.”
Should I roll a spliff?
Rolling your own spliff has several distinct advantages. First, you can control the ratio of tobacco to cannabis, making the ingredients equal or choosing one to dominate the other depending on your desired effect. You can also select the type of paper to use, with flavored and unflavored options available. Tobacco paper is generally sweeter than hemp paper, so you can pick the paper according to the flavor profile you prefer. Rolling paper flavors come in numerous varieties, including banana, honey, green apple, and watermelon. The rolling process is straightforward and if you know how to roll a joint, you’ll be able to roll a spliff too.
With spliffs, you can select the type of paper to use, with flavored and unflavored options available. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Benefits of spliffs
Spliffs offer a number of benefits that joints and blunts may not. Here are the top three benefits of spliffs.
- Easier: While the ease of rolling a joint depends on the texture and quality of the cannabis, spliffs have the advantage of tobacco to act as a buffer. Tobacco tends to make a roll more workable and consistent, which equals less time preparing and more time enjoying.
- More subtle: If you’ve ever rolled and smoked a joint at home, you know that the smell can be overpowering and last for hours if not days. Spliffs, in contrast, are more discreet because they tend to smell like tobacco cigarettes rather than more potent-smelling marijuana. Of course, the aroma of marijuana is more desirable to many people than the smell of cigarette smoke, so this advantage may not matter to you if discretion is not a concern.
- Smoother: Unlike a joint, in which one side can burn faster than the other or extinguish altogether, a spliff offers a smoother experience without these interruptions. From start to finish, the tobacco in spliffs provides consistency, whether you’re rolling or smoking one.
Do spliffs get you higher?
Spliffs have many benefits, but getting you higher is not one of them, especially if your idea of high involves a sensation of relaxation. Joints contain significantly higher levels of cannabis, often containing a full gram of marijuana versus half that amount in a spliff. Plus, because of the tobacco content, the stimulant nicotine factors into the equation. If you like your highs more energetic, then this could be an advantage. But if you prefer to mellow out with your smokes, then joints may be the better choice. Whatever you smoke, cannabis strains containing higher THC concentrations are key if you are seeking a psychoactive experience.
Disadvantages of spliffs
The most obvious disadvantage of spliffs is that they contain tobacco, a known carcinogen. Cannabis, on the other hand, has been studied for its potential anti-cancer properties. Research has shown that cannabis may inhibit the growth of certain types of cancerous tumors. Some cancer patients also prefer cannabis over opioids to manage pain. The chemicals in a spliff could cancel or at least diminish any possible health benefits of cannabis.
In addition, marijuana tastes better than tobacco to many palates. The same principle applies to fragrance, as a whiff of acrid cigarette smoke can be offensive to some people, whereas marijuana may be more inviting. However, as already noted, smoking a spliff can emit a subtler overall scent than smoking a joint, so it ultimately boils down to preference.
One way to work around these disadvantages is to limit the amount of tobacco you roll in a spliff. For example, instead of a 50/50 ratio, try blending 80% cannabis with 20% tobacco. But if health and aesthetic issues are a concern, you may want to stick with pure weed joints.What is a spliff? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents Spliff definition Why is it called a spliff? Should I roll a spliff? Benefits of ]]>