Will Cannabis Pre-Rolls Soon Have to Have the Same Health Warnings as Cigarettes? Canada Says No for Now

June 27, 2023 · Cannabis.net

Canada has become the first and only nation worldwide to mandate individual cigarette warnings, while warning labels and graphic images have been the norm for years. It is now being questioned whether cannabis pre-rolls will face similar regulations. Health Canada has stated that there are no proposed regulatory changes to apply individual health warnings to cannabis pre-rolls. However, this leaves room for potential future changes. It is worth noting that cannabis packages already feature warning labels, as both the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act and the Cannabis Act share objectives of protecting young individuals and enhancing public awareness of the health hazards associated with tobacco and cannabis products. The concern arises whether Canada’s cannabis enthusiasts will be subjected to the same public health propaganda as tobacco consumers. It is argued that while tobacco poses health risks, cannabis has healing properties, and it is not our place to judge the actions of others. Examples include cigar connoisseurs, the significance of smoking in Asian cultures, and tobacco’s origins in Indigenous cultures. The claim is made that Western anti-smoking campaigns can be seen as examples of colonialism and white supremacy. Health Canada asserts that regulations for both tobacco and cannabis products are based on the best available scientific evidence, but this statement is questioned. Will individual cigarette warnings motivate people to quit smoking? If public health succeeds in combating tobacco use, it is suggested that similar regulations for cannabis will likely follow.

THE MYTH OF NICOTINE ADDICTION: A REASSESSMENT

The widely accepted belief that nicotine is solely responsible for cigarette addiction is fundamentally flawed. It is commonly understood that the pharmacological effects of nicotine make cigarettes addictive. However, this belief lacks substantial evidence, similar to attributing “cannabis use disorder” to THC, without sufficient proof. The definition of addiction used in public health is often criticized, as evident from Vietnam veterans who were heroin users and managed to quit their addiction without formal treatment. Dr. Carl Hart argues that the issue lies not with the drugs but with our relationship with them.

A comparison between casual cigar connoisseurs and habitual cigarette smokers highlights the significance of one’s relationship with tobacco. While casual cigar enthusiasts can maintain a healthier and more balanced connection with tobacco, habitual cigarette smokers continue their consumption despite adverse consequences. If nicotine were the primary factor behind addiction, nicotine gum would be a highly popular alternative for cigarette smokers who desire to continue using nicotine while avoiding the harms associated with smoking. However, asking cannabis consumers to rely on edibles and extracts exclusively is akin to this scenario. Consequently, it is unsurprising that “nicotine replacement therapy” has been deemed largely ineffective, according to research.

Studies have indicated that nicotine patches, a common form of nicotine replacement therapy, do not significantly impact cigarette consumption among regular smokers. This outcome is surprising as it suggests that factors other than low plasma nicotine levels typically trigger cigarette smoking. The findings question the overall effectiveness of nicotine patches in reducing cigarette addiction, highlighting the importance of understanding the complex dynamics that contribute to smoking behaviors beyond nicotine dependence.

EXPLORING THE COMPLEXITIES OF TOBACCO USE

 At a deeper level, the Canadian public health authorities acknowledge that tobacco use extends beyond nicotine consumption. A government website highlights the association between tobacco use and various health and social disparities.

Although no specific source is provided, it is suggested that among the 48,000 Canadians who die annually due to tobacco-related causes, the LGBTQ+ and Indigenous communities are disproportionately affected.

Regardless of the breakdown of these demographics or the role of “social inequities,” individual cigarette warnings have proven ineffective in dissuading committed smokers.

Most cigarette smokers I know have grown weary of the graphic packaging and prefer to obtain tax-free cigarettes from First Nation Reserves.

Attempting to scare people into quitting is an ineffective strategy. Cigarette smokers are fully aware of the consequences of their actions. If Health Canada truly aims to help, it would be more beneficial to highlight the advantages of quitting smoking.

Consider, for instance, the ritual associated with lighting a cigarette. In a similar vein, cannabis enthusiasts have their rituals involving grinding flowers and rolling a joint. These rituals are ingrained in the addictive nature of the habit.

A study conducted on smokers utilized cigarettes with minimal or no nicotine content. The results indicated that a quarter of smokers experienced no physical or mental changes when using these low-nicotine cigarettes. They were oblivious to the reduction or absence of nicotine.

Another quarter described a general sense of dissatisfaction compared to their usual smoking experience. Only a third experienced no satisfaction and reported withdrawal symptoms related to nicotine.

Nicotine undeniably plays a role in smoking, just as THC does in cannabis consumption. However, while cannabis enthusiasts would likely opt for an edible over a THC-free joint, research suggests that cigarette smokers do not exhibit the same preference. Many would choose a cigarette without nicotine over a nicotine-heavy patch or oral spray.

UNDERSTANDING THE COMPLEXITY: ADDICTION VS. CHOICE

Do individual cigarette warnings do more harm than good? And if we allow excessive regulation of cigarettes like this, how can we prevent cannabis from facing the same fate?

Health Canada considers tobacco smoke and cannabis smoke to be similar.

Let’s debunk the idea of cigarette addiction once and for all. If nicotine patches alone could determine cigarette addiction based on chemistry, smoking would have ended in the 1990s.

Labeling smoking as a purely pharmacological addiction rather than a behavioral habit does more harm than good.

It reinforces the belief among smokers that they are at the mercy of chemical dependency, undermining their motivation to quit. Portraying cigarette smokers as addicts sets them up for failure, much like our approach to the opioid crisis perpetuates addictive behaviors.

Today, smokers have various reasons for quitting, including health benefits, financial concerns, and societal pressures.

However, the notion that chronic nicotine exposure results in brain disease (“addiction”) that makes quitting nearly impossible lacks evidence.

This perspective strips individuals of their autonomy and freedom of choice, suggesting that they are merely biological programs driven to use substances based on the pharmacological effects of nicotine and the chemistry of their brains.

BOTTOM LINE

In conclusion, a more thorough understanding of addiction should encompass behavioral patterns, cultural influences, and pharmacological ones. This article emphasizes the intricacies of tobacco usage, especially its effects on underserved populations. Overall, creating effective public health initiatives and aiding people in making educated decisions about tobacco and cannabis use requires a holistic understanding of addiction guided by scientific evidence and individual circumstances. (Full Story)

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