Beyond The Smoke

Bobby Bishop and Shafa Ilyas

When it comes down to it, most stories and rallies focus on the bare basic issue when it comes to cigarettes and marijuana: one’s right to smoke.

While the rights that we all have or want are not in question, there is more to consider .

Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases and diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cigarettes are addictive and contain carcinogens and nicotine that contribute to the deterioration of one’s health.

“The nicotine in cigarettes is more addictive [than] heroin,” said Cosumnes River College’s head nurse Michelle Barkley. “There are quite a few health hazards and it starts with your respiratory system, it can affect your heart but eventually it affects all organs of your body.”

Barkley said that nicotine is not only deadly to the people who smoke it, but also to the people who harvest it.

If I was being contained and had to do one against my will, I’d be more on the side of marijuana,

— Michelle Barkley

“Tobacco leaves are harmful for people to touch, the harvesters get cuts in their hands and absorb the nicotine directly into their blood and die,” Barkley said.

Cigarette smoking also comes with the chance to affect the health of others through secondhand smoke. Some of the health conditions caused by secondhand smoke in adults include coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer, according to the the CDC.

While more places, including schools like UC Davis, have turned to banning smoking cigarettes for health considerations, marijuana comes with its own stigmas.

Recent changes allowed the sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington, as well as the reduction of possession of marijuana in Washington D.C., to a civil offense with a $25 fine.

Comparing marijuana and cigarettes, there are many similar and different health effects.

Marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol which is a mind-altering chemical.

Smoking marijuana alters your lungs due to the fact that you are inhaling something you do not breathe in naturally. The pesticides and the chemicals added to the growing plant changes the chemical makeup and what you put into your body.

CRC Nurse Tracy Starnes said that smoking marijuana too much can often have an impact on one’s health.

“The bad effects of marijuana are, there can be long-term memory loss, and it affects everything, the lungs, the heart, the cognitive ability when you are trying to focus,” Starnes said.

Smoking anything involves putting foreign chemicals into your body and “it affects your lungs, it decreases your airway size and its smoke that pollutes your lungs,” Barkley said.

“Everyone is coming out and saying they do weed in public. They have it in songs. It’s everywhere,” said Arron Hoang, a clerk and nurse assistant. “It doesn’t even seem like it’s illegal. Even good students, I know students who get A’s and they still use it.”

While both pose potential risks to the body, Barkley said there was one that would be chosen over the other.

“If I was being contained and had to do one against my will, I’d be more on the side of marijuana,” Barkley said. “It’s less addictive than cigarettes.”