Comment sent to the British Lung Foundation

I asked on the BLF  Facebook page for a contact e-mail and was given a personal address to send comments to. I’m awaiting a reply


11th June 2012

<name address etc>


I have been given your e-mail address as the one to contact regarding the BLF’s recent report into cannabis: “The impact of cannabis on your lungs”.

To be blunt, the report cherry picked studies which supported the prohibitionist point the BLF seemed to want to make whilst playing down those which came up with the “wrong” result. The headline claim that cannabis is twenty times more dangerous than tobacco is nothing short of alarmist and seems designed to produce scary headlines, it has no firm basis in fact.

I would suggest you read the latest blog from Prof David Nutt (“Smoke without fire? Scaremongering by the British Lung Foundation over cannabis vs tobacco” who gives a thorough rebuttal to that claim.

I am not claiming cannabis is “safe” or “harmless”; smoking any material is probably damaging to the lungs and the less smoke you breath in the better, but the science does seem to lead an informed reader to the conclusion that cannabis is relatively less harmful that tobacco, a claim you seem to dismiss. Relatively safer of course does not imply “safe”, simply less dangerous, a concept most people understand.

Indeed the NHS, in the document issued in 2011 entitled “A summary of the health harms of drugs” state regarding cannabis:

* No cases of fatal overdose have been reported
* No confirmed cases of human deaths
* Cancers: no conclusive evidence that cannabis causes cancer

These are claims that simply cannot be made for tobacco, or indeed very many other drugs. Do bear in mind that cannabis has a recorded history of use covering some 5000 years, “No confirmed cases of human deaths” is not a recent observation.

Perhaps more importantly however, the overblown and alarmist claims made in this report have obscured a very important finding which really should have been the focus of attention, namely the extra danger posed to cannabis users from the connection with tobacco and the need for a government campaign designed to encourage cannabis users to stop smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco. Mixing the two drugs is essentially a northern European habit and many cannabis using cultures around the world would never dream of doing this, it is therefore something which would be possible to influence if the political will were there. You could have helped make that happen, had you wished.

This is a very real missed opportunity and a significant disappointment. You do provide some evidence that mixing tobacco with cannabis puts cannabis users at a far higher risk of developing COPD, having somewhat begrudgingly accepted that there doesn’t seem to be a strong link between cannabis and COPD and yet you chose to bury this vital message in a morass of alarmist scaremongering. You chose to highlight the possibility that mixing the two drugs makes the tobacco more dangerous without mentioning the fact that it makes cannabis use very, very much more dangerous. Why did you chose to distort the message in this way?

In addition of course tobacco is very much more addictive (both physically and psychologically) than is cannabis, therefore habitually smoking cannabis mixed with tobacco gives cannabis smoking an addictive quality pure cannabis use could never have. Yet in your report you emphasised the addictive potential of cannabis by highlighting the fact that the low rate you claim is higher for young users, while not mentioning the same fact is true for all the other drugs you mentioned, all of which have a higher addictive potential than cannabis.

Finally, as if to emphasis the dire warnings about cannabis you also supported the claims of an increased risk of psychosis from cannabis use, claims which are highly disputed and in any case, not within your remit.

I would like to ask that you withdraw this report and issue a retraction in the press, along with a re-evaluation of the facts you presented with a view to demanding a harm reduction campaign aimed at encouraging the safer use of cannabis. In doing so you should highlight the fact that tobacco use makes cannabis far more dangerous than it need be, that would be far more honest.

I would like to ask that you support the campaign run by my website and also by Cannabis Law Reform CLEAR called “Tokepure” which is designed to do just that. You can see Tokepure at

You might also like to read my blog entry at

I hope you will appreciate the potential for harm this report has. Many people – especially young cannabis users are alienated by the constant bombardment of prohibition supporting cod science. As a result they are likely to simply ignore everything. You have done your cause a huge disservice, please correct your mistake.


Derek Williams


UKCIA is a cannabis law reform site dedicated to ending the prohibition of cannabis. As an illegal drug, cannabis is not a controlled substance - it varies greatly in strength and purity, it's sold by unaccountable people from unknown venues with no over sight by the authorities. There is no recourse to the law for users and the most vulnerable are therefore placed at the greatest risk. There can be no measures such as age limits on sales and no way to properly monitor or study the trade, let alone introduce proper regulation. Cannabis must be legalised, as an illegal substance it is very dangerous to the users and society at large.

10 thoughts on “Comment sent to the British Lung Foundation

  1. Just to say I recently found your site through your post on the Len Richmond video. Very impressed. I am a member of CLEAR to although I’m an occasional follower. What strikes me about many of these organisations is the spontaneity in which they come out with these sweeping remarks. It always strikes me as odd when much of the research widely shows cannabis is harmless. Let’s face it. So why do they come out with these statements? I think if we understood that better we’d make headway. Let’s look at all the organisations that suddenly come out with nonsense like this. Who said what? Who are they connected with? In my opinion these individuals are paid off either by there employer or direct. If they are paid off where are these payments coming from? Direct from government MP who has a vested interest in a Drug company or straight from the drug company. Who went to the BLF and paid them to do this report? Who’s brainchild was it? You see it’s no different to the Daily Mail making up a spontaneous story of lies. Who? Why? Who are they connected with? Is it not time the Cannabis Reform movement took the individuals to court to prove their studies and sweeping statements?

  2. Some of the dangers talked about are very real with British Cannabis use but that does not make cannabis intrinsically harmful or addictive. Most British users prefer to smoke it and smoke it mixed with tobacco – add to this the very poor quality of home produced cannabis and you have real health risks. Legalise and regulate food products , tablets and drinks containing cannabis extract and all the harm goes away (at least as far as the BLF is concerned).

    Never liked the ‘Toke Pure’ campaign and I don’t think it is a very good way to argue the case especailly to the BLF since you are advocating putting smoke into users lungs which they will never accept !

  3. Toke Pure seems to be established language now, high on the google and so forth, so the best next step might be to make sure everyone understands “toke” to mean toast (expose to 385F heat) rather than ignite/burn, i.e. if you are using the one-hitter this means hold the flame far enough below the opening while sucking slow that you delay the glow 19 seconds or so.

    When you toke without inhaling smoke, what you are inhaling is vapours. True, by this standard a “joint” is also a vapouriser, but a bad one which delivers a low percentage of the cannabinoids but more heat shock and noxious monoxide. With a joint, vapours are released in a narrow boundary-area or interface between the burning and not-yet-burning herbal particles, from non-burning particles heated by burning ones next door. The faster the joint burns, the more thc is destroyed before it has had time to vapourise out from heating particles before they ignite.

    The fact that smoke has a more obvious TASTE than vapours (as cigarette ads have reminded for ages) has misled many persons into thinking they didn’t get their money’s worth unless the herb BURNED. Promoting the idea that a toke with a one-hitter can mean vapourising (don’t worry about taste, you want the cannabinoids) might be a way to confront this fallacy and save many youngsters from getting caught in the mix-with-tobacco trap.

  4. >maxvape
    Even with a vaporiser you are still putting hot gases into your lungs (albeit much less harmful than smoke and usually less of it). Your point about a joint actually vaporising is quite right but only if you roll it really tight which needs properly dried weed. With tobacco in the mix (especially cigarette tobacco) it will burn hotter anyway – for some people this may be a requirement if the weed is damp and very green.
    Of course pipes, bongs and joints simply don’t compare to the effect of a vaporiser – it’s the next best thing to swallowing something and possibly less harmful if you think your weed/hash may be contaminated

  5. We must not forget that we are really talking about 2 different situations here which cannot be addressed by one single slogan:

    1) How best to reduce harm in the current situation with illegally produced cannabis often of dubious quality

    2) What are the best and safest cannabis products to produce if it were produced legally under strict quality controls (as alcohol is)

    Confusion fuels prohibition and weakens the argument for legalisation

  6. @Phrato

    Sorry you don’t like Tokepure, but it’s at the heart of this issue and really it’s got nothing to do with the legality of cannabis use. It’s all about how to use cannabis with the lowest level of harm and if we’re thinking about smoking it, then getting people to stop mixing it with tobacco is a really important message.

    That goes whatever the legal status of cannabis is.

    Of course it’s true that proper control and regulation of the supply side would make things much better for so many reasons, but we are where we are.


    Yes, I agree with what you say but would add something else: The “drug” effect of tobacco is enjoyment, smoking tobacco gives a sense of satisfaction. So smoking joints filled with tobacco is enjoyable because the tobacco creates that sensation. We might as well accept that because the thing we hear time and time again from joint smokers is that they enjoy it.

    Tobacco is a drug that make you feel good about having taken it; that’s pretty much all it does.

  7. @UKCIA
    As you say, the joint-smokers are tobacckgo addicts enjoying whatever it is that they enjoy about tobacckgo, which makes you feel good without being good for you, that is the point. In fact, an easy way to understand this is that in nature sweet foods make you feel good by increasing the blood sugar level (Blood Sugar = Pleasure). Nicotine gets eaten by the pancreas which disgorges insulin which gets eaten by the liver which disgorges glycogen which turns into glucose, raising the Blood Sugar Level whereupon the addict feels “Pleasure”. (Morituri te salutamus, We who are about to die salute you.)

    Given what we know about deceitful tobacckgo, the remaining question is where to get some toFRONTgo. Fortunately we have REachFORth to reach for.

    Continuing with your point, there’s linguistic evidence that the word “joint” lures some unwary youngsters who have been taught to think enJOYment is the issue. But James “Jesus” Joyce Jr. would probably say Joy is best GENerated from within. My pro-cannabis hypothesis, admittedly, is that cannabis liberates Long Distance Memory function, enabling the mind to cherrypick interesting, amusing, challenging factoids and propositions from near to distant past and resynthesize them in present time, resulting in the Miracle-Wonder inventions and innovations cannabis is famous for sponsoring or stimulating. “Ask not what It will do to/for you, ask what you wish to do with It.”


    Quick run-down of tokepure options, what can now be done:

    Vapouriser: advertise the truth, that compared to the cost of cigarettes even an ex$pensive vapouriser pays off in only a few weeks! Beleaguer the government to get rid of law enforcement practices that create fear in the public (yes, among minors too) of getting caught possessing a vapouriser.

    E-cigarette: unlike the notoriously centralized oligopoly of cigarette companies, pooling their huge $$ money resources to control the USA and other governments, these are now made by hundreds of little companies, and thousands of recipes with and without nicotine are available in the cartridges. Two years ago “Vapor Rush”, a cannabinoid e-cigarette, was announced– available only in certainCalifornia dispensaries for medical marijuana patients– what has happened to that, why isn’t such a thing available to everyone everywhere who wants an alternative to nicotine or wants a safer method of cannabis use?
    One-hitters: the issue is that true vapourising is possible with a one-hitter by holding the flame far enouigh away. One-hitters need to be popularized by educating the public how to scratch the screen before each use, how to sift herb properly etc.

  8. There is no need to smoke or vaporise cannabis to get a high/medicinal benefit from it !!

    “Toke pure” does not even mention this fact. Why can’t the people on this site accept that making a tablet or a drink is the safest way to use cannabis? I accept the pragmatic stance of the toke pure campaign but it should not be the sole aim maybe just a stop gap measure

  9. @ Phrato

    Regards vapes:

    From the Tokepure page

    “Cannabis taken with a vaporiser carries none of the risks of smoking whatsoever.”

    And regards ingestion (eating/drinking) Toke pure says:

    “The most obvious action the government should do is to legalise and properly regulate and control the cannabis supply, then not only will the cannabis itself be of better quality but users can be encouraged to use it in safer ways – in food or drink for example where knowing the dose and purity of the supply is most important”.

    Tokepure is, in a sense, a “stopgap” measure, because it doesn’t need any law change.

    There are big problems with eating cannabis while it remains illegal

    Vapes are the way to go, but they’re not cheap or really very practical for simple social use in the way pipes are.

    Tokepure is something the government should and could be doing now, there is no logical reason not to and it requires no change in policy.

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