Marijuana health dangers underestimated, study shows

Marijuana health dangers underestimated, study shows



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SALT LAKE CITY — A new study has found that marijuana is more dangerous than the public perceives it to be, contradicting a previous study that said the opposite.

The study, published Wednesday by the British Lung Foundation, found that a cannabis cigarette is 20 times more likely to cause cancer than a tobacco cigarette.

Researchers found strong evidence of a link between the drug and diseases such as lung cancer, tuberculosis and other lung conditions. Researchers also found a strong association between the drug and heart attacks, as well as suppression of the immune system.

"It is alarming that, while new research continues to reveal the multiple health consequences of smoking cannabis, there is still a dangerous lack of public awareness of quite how harmful this drug can be," said Dame Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation.

The research contradicts findings published in 2011 by the American Medical Association that said marijuana does not impair lung function.

The 2011 study was said at the time to be "essentially confirmatory of the findings from several previous studies that have examined the association between marijuana smoking and lung function," according to Dr. Donald Tashkin, professor of medicine at UCLA.

The new findings come as marijuana use continues to rise in the U.S. even as rates of meth and tobacco usage fall, according to a 2011 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association.

The survey found that 6.9 percent of Americans aged 12 and older used marijuana in 2010, compared to 6.6 percent in 2009 and 6.1 percent in 2008.

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Stephanie Grimes

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