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A Strange Blend: Why Are Europeans Mixing Cannabis and Tobacco?

This article was originally published on Leafly.

Cannabis doesn’t carry the sort of health hazards tobacco does, a majority of studies say. But that doesn’t change the European habit of mixing the two. It’s something North American cannabis consumers don’t often do: even cigarette smokers in Vancouver or L.A. tend smoke their flower pure, strictly separating nicotine and cannabinoids. So where does this difference come from?

To answer the question, let’s go back in time to the cannabis renaissance of the 1960s and ‘70s. Consumers in Europe at the time almost exclusively smoked hashish, often crumbling it into cigarettes, as hardly anyone was aware of the dangers of nicotine and smoking tobacco. The vast majority of cannabis consumers in the U.S., on the other hand, overwhelming had access only to dried flower, which could easily be used to roll pure joints.

These differences influenced the size of what was being rolled in North America and Europe. In the U.S. and Canada, pure “mini-joints” became the standard, while on the continent a king-size joint is preferred. A European-sized joint that contains only cannabis might contain 1.5 grams to 2 grams of flower — far too much for most. An American joint, on the other hand, contains about as much herb — about 0.2 grams to 0.5 grams — as a European mixed joint (often called a spliff in the U.S.), but without the nicotine. Scientists have even pinpointed the average amount of cannabis in an American joint at 0.32 grams. In Germany, the Netherlands, or Denmark, that amount of cannabis is typically mixed with another gram or so of tobacco, depending on personal preference.

Smoke Raw

Not only does consuming a cannabis–tobacco blend affect your health more than pure flower, it also complicates efforts to gauge the health effects of cannabis itself. The legalization debate often revolves around the dangers of “smoking,” because almost every European study on cannabis is not about smoking it pure but about cannabis mixed with tobacco. Even in medical programs, little attention is paid to whether patients smoke pure. That means that Europeans who use cannabis alone has to justify the consequences of a substance that has little to do with cannabis.

Even without tobacco, smoking is the unhealthiest form of any medical application. Yet other, healthier forms of consumption, such as vaporization or edibles, seem to catch on much more slowly in Europe. That’s in part because tobacco has long been engrained in European culture; as cannabis grew in popularity among Europeans, that affected how people chose to consume. In other cultures, where cannabis has been part of everyday life for millennia, people consume orally or at least smoke cannabis pure.

Mixing tobacco into a joint increases the addictive risks immensely. Many casual users have only begun to smoke cigarettes because they use tobacco for their joints. “Without cannabis I have no problems, but I then smoke more cigarettes” — you’ll never hear such a statement from a pure-cannabis consumer. Doctors in Germany or the Netherlands treating cannabis patients are often unaware of this phenomenon and fail to advise patients to quit tobacco— or at least to separate the consumption of both drugs so the positive effects of cannabis remain intact. The unfortunate reality is that in most instances in Europe, the pairing of cannabis and tobacco simply isn’t discussed.

Last but not least, pure cannabis acts quite differently than a cannabis–tobacco blend. Patients report that the combination of nicotine and cannabis can lead to pain relief and relaxation, but very often they note fatigue as a negative side effect.

Lung-Killer Nicotine

All these facts should be worrying enough for European cannabis fans to reflect on their consumption habits. To make things worse, there’s the political aspect. Prohibitionists use the dangers of the legal drug nicotine to protest against legalization of cannabis: “How can we have ever stricter laws to control tobacco and at the same time legalize cannabis?”

Professor Donald Tashkin has been a leading American pulmonologists for decades. In the past he was a vocal supporter of cannabis prohibition. Tashkin was convinced that smoking cannabis flowers created a high risk of developing lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). At one point, he was convinced that cannabis and lung cancer had a causal relationship worse than tobacco.

But more recent evaluations of long-term studies, however, made him change his mind in 2009: “Early on, when our research appeared as if there would be a negative impact on lung health, I was opposed to legalization because I thought it would lead to increased use, and that would lead to increased health effects,” he has said. “But at this point, I’d be in favor of legalization. I wouldn’t encourage anybody to smoke any substances, because of the potential for harm. But I don’t think it should be stigmatized as an illegal substance. Tobacco smoking causes far more harm. And in terms of an intoxicant, alcohol causes far more harm.”

If the legislators take their task to protect public health seriously, European studies that evaluate the risk potential of pure cannabis consumed in various forms (smoking, vaporizing, edibles) have to be undertaken. These studies should take the international state of research into account, focusing on safer ways of consuming.

Michael Knodt is Leafly’s Germany correspondent.

A Strange Blend: Why Are Europeans Mixing Cannabis and Tobacco? This article was originally published on Leafly. Cannabis doesn’t carry the sort of health hazards tobacco does, a majority

What is cannabis flower and how do you consume it?

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Contents

  1. How to smoke weed
  2. Cannabis flower dosing
  3. Frequently asked questions

Even as new technologies allow manufacturers to create numerous product types that deliver the benefits of cannabis, traditional flower smoking remains the most common and preferred method of consumption around the world.

Flower, also called “bud,” refers to the smokeable part of the cannabis plant that has gone through the cultivation, harvest, drying, and curing process. Cannabis flower continues to be a popular choice for its versatility, offering numerous methods of consumption, such as being smoked using a pipe or bong, or by rolling it into a joint or blunt.

Flower, also called “bud,” refers to the smokeable part of the cannabis plant that has gone through the cultivation, harvest, drying, and curing process. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Among the many benefits of smoking weed is its rapid onset. Flower’s high bioavailability means you’ll feel its effects almost instantaneously. Effects can last anywhere from one to three hours, varying from person to person.

How to smoke weed

While the majority of weed smokers around the world know how to roll their flower into a joint to smoke, there are numerous ways to enjoy cannabis flower. These methods are dependent on the person’s preference, environment and given situation.

There are numerous ways to enjoy cannabis flower. These methods are dependent on the person’s preference, environment and given situation. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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How to smoke a joint

Joints are the most common method of smoking weed. There are many benefits to rolling a joint. The only tools you need to roll a joint are rolling papers and your flower (a grinder, while helpful, is optional). Rolling papers are inexpensive and easy to purchase (available in most convenience stores).

Joints are the most common method of smoking weed. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Most common rolling papers are made from wood pulp material, but there are a variety of different rolling papers specifically tailored for stoners, including longer-sized papers, hemp-based papers, and even packages that provide the joint roller with extra paper to make crutches with.

How to smoke a blunt

While less common, a blunt is the same basic idea as a joint. A blunt is an emptied-out cigar wrapper that’s been filled with flower and resealed. For similar reasons as a joint, the benefit of rolling a blunt is that all you need is the blunt wrap (or tobacco leaves) and your cannabis flower (a grinder is optional). Most convenience stores sell cigars, allowing blunt making to be possible virtually anywhere. The only potential downside to a blunt is that you’re also consuming the tobacco in the cigar wrap.

A blunt is an emptied-out cigar wrapper that’s been filled with flower and resealed. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Pipes

Possibly the easiest, most straightforward way to smoke weed is through the use of a pipe. Small, compact, and easy to use, pipes are handheld devices that are used to smoke flower. They require no power or water; simply break apart your flower, fill the bowl and light up. Ideal for traveling or discreet use, pipes are practical and reliable tools for cannabis smokers.

Small, compact, and easy to use, pipes are handheld devices that are used to smoke flower. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Bongs

Another common method of smoking flower is the use of a water pipe, or “bong.” Bongs are a filtration device structurally comprised of a chamber, which is partially filled with water, and a downstem that connects the water chamber and holds a bowl (which holds the cannabis). Bongs are ideal for calming the heat and harshness of inhaling smoke. The liquid in the water chamber helps filter particles from the smoke. The water level in the chamber should be set just above the open end of the downstem to properly filter the smoke. As the smoke makes its way through the bong, the length of the pipe also aids in the cooling action.

Bongs are ideal for calming the heat and harshness of inhaling smoke. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Bongs come in all shapes and sizes; some are more advanced (and thus, more expensive) than others. Some glass bongs are modified so that users can add ice into the chamber and cool the smoke before it’s inhaled. Glass percolator bongs provide an additional filtration system in the chamber, making it possible to filter the smoke multiple times, leaving the user with cleaner and cooler hit. Keep in mind that glass bongs and pipe tend to get caked with resin after longtime use, necessitating an occasional deep clean to restore the paraphernalia to its pristine state and get the most pleasant possible flower consumption experience.

While a glass bong is the most popular water pipe style, there are also lower quality acrylic bongs, ceramic bongs, and the gravity bong. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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While a glass bong is the most popular water pipe style, there are also lower quality acrylic bongs, ceramic bongs, and even DIY options, such as the gravity bong. A classic homemade method of consumption, there are two different types of makeshift “gravity bongs” you can make to smoke flower.

The most common type of gravity bong comprises of an empty plastic bottle–think a two-liter soda bottle–with the bottom cut out and a bowl mounted into the cap, as well as a larger container or bucket filled with water. Partially submerging the bottle in the water, the bowl is lit and the bottle is slowly raised, creating pressure that causes smoke to fill the smaller container. When the chamber is filled or the bowl is ashed, the bowl is unscrewed and the smoke is inhaled through the opening at the top of the bottle.

The most common type of gravity bong comprises of an empty plastic bottle with the bottom cut out and a bowl mounted into the cap, as well as a larger container or bucket filled with water. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Another type of gravity bong, also commonly referred to as “waterfall bong,” uses just one container or plastic bottle. It must have a bowl mounted onto the cap and a small hole near the base of the container to drain the water out easily. To use this waterfall bong, fill it with water and plug the hole in the base to prevent water from escaping. After packing the bowl, hold the lighter flame to the flower and allow the water to slowly seep out from the hole at the base, causing cannabis smoke to fill the vacant space in the bottle. Unscrew the cap and take a hit to clear the encapsulated smoke out of the container.

Cannabis flower dosing

Unlike other methods of cannabis consumption, flower doesn’t have a standard dosing structure. Potency is measured by the total concentration of cannabinoids (chemical compounds that act on our endocannabinoid system to stimulate psychoactive and physical effects) and is expressed in percentage of mg/g. For example, a menu item of Hardcore OG might read as 18.84% THC, which indicates that there are 188.40 milligrams of Tetrahydrocannabinol (an intoxicating cannabinoid) per gram of flower.

For novice-level smokers, it’s highly advised that you start with a small amount of cannabis flower and gradually increase the dosage until you find that sweet spot. The reported adverse side effects of THC, which are dependent on several factors, such as the THC potency of the cannabis product and dosage amount, include paranoia and anxiety.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of paper can you use when you’re out of rolling paper?

In a pinch, several materials will serve as suitable rolling paper substitutes. Emptied cigarettes or cigarette papers are made for smoking and will burn slowly as other rolling papers do. Creative rollers also use receipts and phone book pages, both thinner than regular paper, though the ink reportedly produces a harsher burn. For a more health-conscious option, you can also roll a joint using corn husks tied with string or specially prepared rose petals baked together to form a longer wrap. Gum wrappers, hair curler papers, and even gum wrappers can also roll into a DIY joint.

Can you use tissue paper to roll a joint?

It’s not recommended to use tissue paper to roll a joint. While it’s technically possible, tissue paper is highly fragile and will likely fall apart with any attempt to roll. Further, many companies treat their tissue paper with various chemicals and lotions. As they’re not required by law to state what chemicals are in their tissue products (as tissues aren’t intended for human consumption), it’s anyone’s guess as to what you’d be smoking were you to roll up with tissue paper.

Can you use gum wrappers as joint wraps?

Yes, gum wrappers can be used as a joint wrap in a pinch. They require some preparation to be ready to spark up. Take an empty gum wrapper and heat up the thin paper side by holding a lighter a few inches away from the wrapper. Once heated, slowly peel the colored coating and aluminum away from the paper. Finally, place the desired amount of flower in your thin paper and roll up, using an adhesive such as THC oil or honey to seal the joint.

Can you smoke in a steamy room to smoke without the smell?

Yes, with some caveats, as the steam doesn’t prevent the smell of weed during smoking. When steam fills the room, its higher temperature and higher pressure minimize the diffusion of smoke in the room. As this happens, the compounds in the weed smoke absorb the water in the air, turning into heavier particles that are bigger, slower, and less likely to leave the steamy room. The pressure acts as a vacuum and keeps the stinky smoke inside, especially when the room’s door is sealed underneath by a towel. The smell sticks around for about half an hour longer until it finally dissipates after the steam and falling water break down the smoke.

Can you smoke when you get your wisdom tooth pulled out?

In theory, yes, though many dentists recommend not smoking anything (tobacco or cannabis) for at least a week after extractions. This is for several reasons — smoking decreases saliva production and causes the blood vessels in your gums to contract (decreasing blood flow to where your wounds are healing) and risks infection, dry socket, and incomplete recovery. Chemicals present in non-organic cannabis could also cause irritation, further risking injury or dry socket. Instead of smoking, online sources recommend making edibles with easy-to-chew foods or consuming using a tincture.

What is an easy and cheap homemade pipe screen?

A pipe screen is a small, metal screen placed inside a pipe as a filter, used to stop hot embers or cannabis residue from traveling up the pipe and into your mouth. While pipe screens are typically very inexpensive at head shops or tobacco shops, you may find yourself in need of a homemade option.

One common homemade pipe screen comes from using the small, nickel-sized screen found on sink faucets. Simply unscrew the metal cylinder from under the faucet head and pop out the screen, shaping it to fit inside your pipe. If you have broken earbuds lying around, the small screen that goes inside your ear also works. Carefully remove the casing around the in-ear part and shape the screen as needed in your pipe. If all else fails, a small, irregularly shaped pebble will be just as effective as long as there is room around the stone for cannabis smoke to flow into the mouthpiece.

How do you remove the smell from a hotbox?

Hotbox removal techniques require different solutions depending on the environment in which cannabis smoking occurs. When hotboxing a car, driving around with the windows open shortly after a smoking session can help push the smoke out of the vehicle. Place baking soda boxes strategically around the interior of the car and let them sit for as long as possible to soak up the ambient odors. Many online sources also recommend Ozium or other air fresheners to eat away at the weed smell.

When hotboxing a room, the above methods work but may require some additional odor-masking techniques to completely eliminate the weed smell. Burning incense or scented candles can keep the weed smell at bay. Washing any clothes and carpet that came in contact with weed smoke will greatly reduce how long the smell lingers.

Will smoking out of the window prevent the room from smelling?

In real-time, blowing smoke out of an open window or into an air conditioner vent will help circulate the cannabis smell out of a room. A room may or may not still smell while doing this, but it ensures most of the smoke moves outside of the enclosed space. Using a tool such as a sploof will further filter the cannabis smell as you blow out the window. Just make sure the wind is moving away from your window and not blowing the weed smoke back into your room.

Using a tool such as a sploof will further filter the cannabis smell as you blow out the window. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Will smoking in the shower prevent the smell of marijuana?

Smoking weed in the shower won’t prevent the smell of marijuana from reeking, but the steam of a shower will help capture the odor and keep the smoke and smell particles contained in the bathroom. However, it might be difficult to spark up a pipe or keep a lit joint going right next to running water.

How far does cannabis smoke travel?

How far cannabis smoke travels depends largely on the environment in which the smoking occurs and many variables play into its reach. If you’re smoking outside, how fast and in what direction the wind is blowing, humidity levels, other aromas in the air, and other factors all affect the distance cannabis smoke travels.

Your consumption method also affects the reach of cannabis smoke. A vape, for example, produces much less vapor and odor than a joint or blunt. Online sources report between being able to smell smoked cannabis anywhere from ten-to-50 yards from the source.

How long does it take for you to start feeling high?

How long it takes for a weed high to kick in depends on many different factors, such as biochemistry, weight, the amount consumed, the cannabinoid and terpene profile of the strain, and how the cannabis is consumed. Smoking and vaping typically take about five minutes to reach the peak of psychoactivity, according to Dr. Robert Mann of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, though some consumers report feeling effects within seconds of a first hit. Edibles, on the other hand, take anywhere from 30-60 minutes to start kicking in.

Will the smell of marijuana be reduced if I smoke out of a bong?

Yes, smoking out of a bong can slightly reduce the smell of marijuana, thanks to the water’s extra filtration of the cannabis smoke and the fact you’re not also burning tobacco leaf or smoking paper. Using a bong doesn’t entirely remove the smell, however, and consistent use can accumulate a smell that some users claim reeks worse than weed alone. To minimize bong odor during and after smoking, make sure to clean your piece regularly.

Does weed smell stick to clothing?

Weed smell sticks to clothes at varying levels, depending on what strain you’re smoking and how you’re consuming your weed. A blunt’s stronger smell is more likely to stick to clothing, while a bong session’s smell typically dissipates with a quick step outside. Regular clothes washing, body sprays and air fresheners are useful ways to remove the smell after a smoking session.

What’s the best way of smoking weed without papers, pipes or bongs?

Vaporizers are the easiest method of smoking weed without papers or pieces, and vaporizing flower is potentially one of the healthiest consumption methods. Consumers also have plenty of DIY options when it comes to smoking weed. DIY pipes, made with apples or other fruit; DIY bongs made out of water bottles or soda cans; and DIY joints using materials such as empty cigarettes, gum wrappers, corn husks, or even rose petals are all possible options when you can’t get your hands on papers or a pipe.

Apart from vapes, consumers also have plenty of DIY options when it comes to smoking weed. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Can you boil weed and drink the water to get high?

No, you need to decarboxylate cannabis materials to change THCA into THC, the cannabinoid with psychoactive effects. THC is fat-soluble, not water-soluble, so it doesn’t dissolve into the water when heated. However, you can boil cannabis leaves to create a weed-tasting tea with other nutritious properties the cannabis plant provides.

How do you know when your bowl is finished?

You can usually tell when your bowl is finished (cashed) when you taste ash rather than cannabis when you take a hit. You also should see white-to-black ash in the bowl, and not see any green flower material left over.

Can you smoke marijuana seeds to get high?

No, seeds contain very little to zero THC and will not make you high when smoked.

What happens when you swallow smoke?

Swallowing smoke has no major effect on the cannabis smoking experience. As the lungs introduce cannabinoids to your bloodstream much faster than the stomach, swallowing smoke typically wastes the psychoactivity inhaling would provide. However, swallowing cannabis smoke can irritate the lining of the stomach and cause minor stomach pain, heartburn, or even vomiting.

What is cannabis flower and how do you consume it? Copy article link to clipboard. Link copied to clipboard. Contents How to smoke weed Cannabis flower dosing Frequently