The American Academy of Pediatrics just released a study published by researchers from Columbia University warning parents of the dangers that children can face when inhaling second-hand smoke. However, it wasn’t cigarettes or tobacco that the group was singling out, but cannabis.
There is no doubt that cannabis use among American adults is on the rise and this fact is contrasted sharply by the plummeting statistics regarding cigarette smoking. So with fewer people choosing to light up a cig, the threat of second-hand smoke on children should be minimized but this new study assumes that increased cannabis usage by adults will automatically translate into increased exposure by kids.
Do you smoke cigarettes?
Do you smoke cannabis?
Do you light up either one around your kids?
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Between 2002 – 2015 the percentage of American adults who had used cannabis within the past month, and also had at least one child in their house, rose relatively modestly from 4.9% to 6.8%.
During that same time period, cigarette usage fell steeply from 27.6% in 2002 to 20.2% in 2015.
Both overall and daily cannabis use were almost 4x as common among those who smoked cigarettes as opposed to non-cig-smokers and in between 2002 – 2015 even though cigarette smoking was in a major decline, the percentage of cigarette smoking parents who also reported enjoying smoking cannabis jumped from 11.0% to 17.4%.
So the statistics suggest that even though more and more people are kicking their tobacco habits, they may be substituting them for a cannabis smoking habit. And while most of us would consider that a pretty darn good trade, the American Academy of Pediatrics is claiming that second-hand smoke from cannabis may be up to 3x worse than that from cigs for the health of the arterial walls.
Media outlets have covered the researcher’s findings with sensational headlines like “More Parents Smoking Marijuana Around Children, Study Says”, assuming that just because an adult cannabis user has a kid “in the house” that they are blazing bowls right in front of the young’uns.
In fact, the study sheepishly admits that: “Little is known about current trends in the use of cannabis among parents with children in the home.”
The researchers estimated that in 2015 some 15 to 25 million children were living with a parent who was a current cigarette smoker. By contrast, they estimated that 5 to 8 million kids in the U.S. had at least one current cannabis smoker in their household.
They break the stats down even further, by age, showing that 1 in 5 parents (20%) between the ages of 18 – 25 who smoke cigarettes were also using cannabis. Compare that to 1 in 20 parents (5%) in that same age group who use cannabis but do not smoke cigs.
The researchers used this tidbit to substantiate their assertion that Increased Cannabis Use among Parents = Increased Second Hand Smoke for Kids by saying that younger parents tend to have younger kids and those young kids tend to be around the home more and so naturally mom is blowing kush smoke into her kid’s face…or something.
According to the Center for Disease Control, smoke from cigarettes can contain over 7,000 chemicals and at least 70 of them have been found to cause cancer.
Shocking to nobody who is paying attention, the CDC doesn’t provide such detail about cannabis, but instead ponders what-if’s and maybes (emphasis ours): “While there is very little data on the health consequences of breathing secondhand marijuana smoke, there is concern that it could cause harmful health effects, including among children.”
What is not in dispute is the fact that children exposed to the second-hand smoke from cannabis have been shown to absorb and retain measurable levels of cannabis-related metabolites. For example, a 2016 study in Colorado found that 16% of kids hospitalized for a lung infection called bronchiolitis were shown to have been exposed to cannabis smoke. In line with the statistics we’ve presented above, about 46% of them had been exposed to both tobacco and cannabis smoke.
In conclusion, the researchers from Columbia U expressed their concern that all of the strides that have been made in an attempt to totally eliminate second-hand tobacco smoke in the homes of children could be undermined by the rising popularity of cannabis use by adults.
So, as a cannabis user, should you be concerned about toking up around your kids?
As with most parenting scenarios, it is really up to you but you should always recognize any potential consequences for your actions. Even if it is someday proven that second-hand cannabis smoke is not a cancer risk, there is still the potential for a contact high for your kids, which can have any number of unintended outcomes. Also, nosy neighbors, disgruntled ex’s, or imposing in-laws could make your life a living hell if they weaponized your cannabis use against you with Child Protective Services. The risk often outweighs the reward.
So the prudent advice, if you are looking for some, would be to always stay honest with your kids about your cannabis use, but do your best to keep them away from it.