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FIRST-PERSON: Confused about pot’s popularity

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–I am confused. Currently in America, cigarette smoking is discouraged. It is vilified, regulated and even banned from many public places. At the same time, marijuana smoking is being viewed more favorably than ever. A recent Gallup poll found that 46 percent of Americans favor the legalizing of cannabis.

Let me repeat, I am confused. One type of smoking — cigarette — is almost university frowned upon, while another type of puffing — marijuana — apparently is being embraced like never before.

It seems self-evident to me that the presence of smoke — any kind of smoke — in a person’s lungs is not helpful or healthy. I have two brothers who were career firefighters. At some point during their careers, each was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. It is clear that smoke + lungs = bad.

It took decades of education for a majority of Americans to grasp the reality that cigarette smoke is not healthy. And yet now, it seems that many believe that somehow marijuana smoke is going to be different. They naively believe that when it come to cannabis, smoke + lungs = good.

Those embracing marijuana are wrong. Not only is marijuana smoke unhealthy, it is worse, much worse than cigarettes.

The very least a cigarette smoker can expect to experience is a diminished lung capacity. The worst, however, is a variety of respiratory disorders and lung cancer. None of which are pleasant.

Second-hand cigarette smoke is also a health issue. People exposed to a smoker’s puffing are also put at a greater risk for lung-related problems. As already stated, smoke + lungs = bad.

Just like cigarette smokers, marijuana users expose themselves to diminished lung capacity as well as respiratory illnesses. The jury is still out as to whether or not lung cancer can be linked to the smoking of cannabis; however I will not be surprised when it is.

Unlike cigarettes, marijuana smokers experience intoxication. In slang terms it is referred to as “being stoned” or “getting high.” Whatever you call it, the user is impaired somewhat like a person who is drunk on alcohol.

As an experiment, two California journalists recently attempted to navigate a car over a closed road course after smoking marijuana. The pair conducted the test in light of the Golden State’s Proposition 19, an initiative on Tuesday’s ballot seeking to make recreational marijuana smoking legal in the state.

Peter Tilden, radio talk show host for a radio station in Los Angeles and Steve Lopez, columnist for the Los Angeles Times both smoked a small amount of marijuana and then attempted to drive a car. The California Highway Patrol provided oversight for the experiment.

According to reports, Tilden and Lopez did not fare very well. Tilden attempted to parallel park and thought he had done fine. However, he learned that he had parked six feet from the curb.

“The experiment showed how impaired I was on pot,” Tilden told reporters. He went on to explain that driving the course was made more difficult because of the marijuana and that he did not do any better on the driving portion than he did trying to park.

Lopez also struggled on the driving portion of the test and, according to reports, when he tried to change lanes he drove straight for a ditch.

Anyone that has ever smoked marijuana has experienced the intoxication that results. If fact, it is the main reason for inhaling the smoke. Marijuana produces a “high” that impairs a person in much the same way alcohol does. That, in turn, can impact the public’s safety.

Second-hand smoke is also an issue when it comes to marijuana. However, it is not only respiratory issues that are at stake. It is possible for a person to experience, to a lesser degree, some of the same intoxicating effects as the person smoking the marijuana.

Marijuana has some of the same health implications as tobacco cigarettes, with the added issue of intoxication. That said, cigarettes are viewed by most Americans as unhealthy. Marijuana, on the other hand, has never been more popular. I confess I am confused. After all, smoke + lungs = bad.
Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.

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