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What happens when you smoke tobacco with weed? Quite a lot, actually. Mixing weed and tobacco creates a unique smoking experience. Some people love it, and some people would rather just smoke pure cannabis flower. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect when you mix weed and tobacco together. 

What is a spliff?

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The term “spliff” means different things in different countries. In Jamaica, for example, a spliff refers to a big ‘ol joint. In the United States, a spliff is a cigarette rolled with a mixture of tobacco and cannabis. We’ll use the latter definition of the world throughout this article.

Blunts also contain tobacco, as they’re wrapped in a tobacco leaf.

What happens to your body when you mix weed and tobacco?

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There’s a reason why spliffs are so popular. Nicotine causes spikes of opioid “feel good” chemicals in the brain, it is instantly relaxing and gives you a pleasant, lightheaded feeling. You also feel all of these sensations with cannabis, but with more powerful, psychoactive and muscle relaxing effects. When you combine the two, you get a different experience altogether.

Mellow high

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Mixing cannabis and tobacco is sedating, but you won’t necessarily experience the overpowering brain fog associated with smoking a pure joint. Though every person has a different experience with cannabis and tobacco, you’re likely to feel pleasantly relaxed. You’ll still be able to focus and hold calm, interesting conversations. Nicotine and THC both induce euphoria,  so expect to find a blissful, happy smile on your face.

Increased THC

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A 2009 study found that combining tobacco and cannabis created more available THC. This means that you’ll feel the effects of cannabis very quickly, and more of it will be available for your body to use.

The study examined the THC content in smoke captured from a pure cannabis joint and a spliff containing only 25% cannabis. The results are surprising. THC in the smoke from the pure cannabis joint measured around 32.70 milligrams per gram. And the spliff? THC increased to 58.90 milligrams per gram. This lead the study authors to conclude that tobacco seemed to increase the vaporization efficiency of THC by as much as 45%.

This lead the study authors to conclude that tobacco seemed to increase the vaporization efficiency of THC by as much as 45%.

Head rush

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The extra surge of THC coupled with nicotine causes a special kind of head rush. Tobacco causes a tingly, light-headed feeling. It also stimulates adrenaline production. Your heart pumps faster, your blood pressure rises. You’re stimulated and ready to go. This bump in adrenaline might make you feel a little shaky.

Cannabis causes blood to flow more quickly to arteries in the brain, producing another type of head rush sensation. When you combine these two things, you might feel a little more of a head-high than usual. The nicotine gives you a little energetic buzz, and the cannabis provides the giggles and philosophical musings.

Health risks of tobacco smoke

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Tobacco is bad for you. We have known this for decades. When you smoke a spliff over a joint, your risk of negative consequences associated with tobacco increase. The majority of these health risks occur after chronic, continuous tobacco use. So, it’s unlikely that you’ll develop a monstrous disease like lung cancer if you only smoke tobacco every so often. Yet, if you’re going to start smoking more tobacco, it’s good to know what you’re getting into. Some of the risks include:

  • COPD
  • Emphysema
  • Lung cancer
  • Throat cancer
  • Asthma
  • “Hairy” tongue
  • Diseases of the teeth and gums

Are these risks reduced with spliffs?

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There are a few things that play into whether or not spiffs or blunts hold the same risks of cancer and other negative health consequences. Here are a few things you need to consider before you light up:

Amount smoked

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People who smoke cigarettes don’t typically stop at just one. Tobacco-smoking Americans smoke an average of 1,000 to 1, 500 cigarettes year. That’s two to four each day. The more cigarettes you smoke, the greater the risk. Spliffs are a bit different. Because cannabis is so strong, you don’t typically find people chain-smoking spliffs. It’s not uncommon to enjoy one as a simple nightcap or on a special occasion. If you smoke a spliff or blunt just occasionally, this drastically reduces your exposure to harmful tobacco smoke.

Filter or no filter

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Though far from perfect, many tars and toxins are caught in cigarette filters. Most of the time, you don’t use a filter when you smoke a spliff. Blunts don’t have filters at all. Not using a filter increases the amount of carcinogens and tars that you inhale. This increases health risks associated with tobacco smoke. Perhaps more so than with a traditional cigarette.

Less tobacco

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Cannabis has potent anti-cancer properties. This fact is why it is so difficult to link the herb to serious diseases like lung cancer. However, smoked cannabis still does contain carcinogens. The carcinogens are not from the herb itself but from the process of combustion. In theory, the anti-cancer properties of cannabis help protect against the cancer-causing compounds in smoke.

When you mix cannabis with tobacco, you increase the total amount of carcinogens in each hit. Tobacco is not associated with cancer-fighting properties. Rather, tobacco has been strongly linked to cancer for quite some time now. Adding a little cannabis to your cigarette lowers your overall tobacco intake. This is a good thing for a cigarette smoker, as you’re replacing a known carcinogen with something significantly less harmful.

However, adding a touch of cannabis to some tobacco will not fully protect you from the health risks of tobacco smoke. It may reduce some of the damage, but cannabis won’t counteract all of the negative impacts of tobacco.

Though there is no surefire scientific evidence to back this up, smoking an occasional spliff may be healthier than smoking cigarettes. But, if you’re going to smoke something, smoking cannabis alone is a better option. If you’re smoking cannabis solo, using a vaporizer, eating an edible, or at least switching to a bong helps reduce any potential negatives caused by inhaling smoke.

Spliffs can be enjoyable, but they’re definitely not good for your health. If you’re concerned about health risks, opt for a different consumption method. However, it’s practically impossible to be healthy 100% of the time. A little indulgence every once in a while probably won’t kill you. Just be aware that there are risks involved.

Spliffs or no spliffs? Share your thoughts with us on social media or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

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Anna Wilcox

Anna Wilcox is a Pacific Northwest native with a passion for cannabis and natural health. Contact her on Twitter @delilahbfield.
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