There is a popular belief among cannabis users that smoking out of tin foil or aluminium foil is dangerous to your health. Where did this belief come from? Is it true? In this article, we delve into the origins and validity of this disconcerting myth.
Origins and explanation
In the study of the Alzheimer’s patients brains, it was noted that the deposits of plaque had a high content of aluminium. This fact is what led to the origin of the myth. Consequently, the practice of using aluminium foil to make quick and easy pipes or bowl, or the go-to trick of turning a soda can into a homemade steamroller quickly became the subject of stoner debate.
Debunking the dangers
The process by which Alzheimer’s affects the brain is due to plaques, which are caused by excessive concentrations of the Amyloid Beta protein in the brain. These proteins are sticky, and clump together. As they build up, they disrupt cellular communication, eventually causing neural pathways to breakdown. This results in loss of memory, difficulty in problem solving, and general confusion.
THC has been proven to stop this process by blocking the acetylcholinesterase (AChE) enzyme, which catalyses amino acids into the plaque proteins. In addition to being an effective amyloid inhibitor, THC helps neural cells stay healthy and protects them against damage.
Because the use of THC actually helps prevent and even treat Alzheimer’s, smoking from aluminium foil would be mitigated by what is being smoked.
To address the specific potential dangers of aluminium foil or aluminium cans, we can take a page from the experts. The Wesleyan Argus has a weekly column called Ask a Professor, where this exact question was posed. Here is the answer:
“Perhaps you’re worried that the short-term memory loss, confusion and paranoia are due to the aluminium? It’s not likely. Aluminium is a fairly reactive metal and on exposure to the atmosphere it quickly forms a surface layer of aluminium oxide, which protects the underlying metal from further reaction. Any aluminium that winds up in the smoke would be in the form of this oxide.
There is little data on aluminium oxide toxicity, but it appears to be about as toxic as other fine particulates. Additionally, a number of recent studies have indicated that the proposed link between Alzheimer’s disease and aluminium is weak or nonexistent.
There are, of course, more serious short- and long-term health effects linked to smoking in general, and marijuana smoking in particular, that have been reported.”
The truth is that if aluminium foil was a cause of brain damage or Alzheimer’s, we would get far more exposure to it from everyday cooking, grilling, and food packaging than we possibly could from occasionally using a foil pipe.
In the end, although aluminium foil is not inherently dangerous to smoke from, there are a few negatives to the practice that smokers should take into consideration.
- With any good herb, flavor is important. Smoking from foils can give your herb a harsh, metallic taste, especially if you burn the foil. The fumes may not be seriously dangerous, but smokers have reported headaches and harsher coughs from it.
- Foil is thin, and many a smoker has come away from using a cheap foil pipe with burned fingers or lips, never a pleasant experience.
- As far as discreet goes, foil is not only shiny and obvious, it will hold onto herb smell and residue strongly. If you are trying to not get busted, this is equivalent to gift wrapping the evidence.
- Foil pipes and aluminium cans don’t hold up to the heat of repeated smoking, and cleaning a foil pipe is a lesson in futility. You have to make a new one every time, which is not only a pain in the rear but environmentally irresponsible.
- Let’s face it. With the growing acceptance of cannabis in mainstream culture, and the plethora of available devices to smoke out of, smoking out of tin foil is not only stoner faux-pas, it relegates the act into the visual realm of crack pipes and junkies. Unless it is a dire smoking emergency, there are countless other creative ways to smoke cannabis.
If you have to use aluminium foil or cans, so be it. It’s cheap, malleable, and gets the job done. Furthermore, you aren’t in jeopardy of getting brain damage. You will, however, lose points for style.
Have you smoked weed out of a tin foil pipe? Did the fumes give you a headache? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.
His other positions include Co-founder and product design for Cool Vapes and Creative Director for Ergrow Systems.
He is also Founder / President / Creative Director for The Official Cannabis Book of World Records.
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