6 Jun 2012

Lack of awareness over cannabis risks ‘alarming’

A “dangerous” lack of awareness about smoking cannabis could be putting millions of people at risk of developing cancer, a leading charity warns.

Some 2.2 million people have used cannabis in the past year

Some 88 per cent of people believe that smoking cigarettes is worse than cannabis, but in fact the risk of developing lung cancer is 20 times greater from a cannabis joint than a legal tobacco cigarette, research has revealed.

A report from the British Lung Foundation has suggested there is an serious disconnect between the public perception of cannabis as a relatively safe drug and the serious impact it can have on the lungs of people who smoke it.

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, described the lack of awarness as “alarming”.

She called for a public health campaign to finally dispel the myths around smoking cannabis.

Dame Helena added: “Young people in particular are smoking cannabis unaware that, for instance, each cannabis cigarette they smoke increases their chances of developing lung cancer by as much as an entire packet of 20 tobacco cigarettes.”

According to the survey, 6.8 per cent of 16 to 59-year-olds in England and Wales have used cannabis in the past year – approximately 2.2 million people, making it the most commonly used illegal drug in the UK.

The British Lung Foundation said its report is the most comprehensive review of research data yet compiled on the subject of cannabis use.

The survey was carried out by TNS on behalf of the charity, on a representative sample of 1,045 people across Britain.