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A smoke is a smoke is a smoke: new research suggests that folks who smoke ganja may be more prone to taking up - or returning to - the cigarette habit.

One tobacco-cessation expert said the findings aren’t surprising.

“Among individuals which I have treated, the majority of those who smoke cannabis as well as cigarettes often have a more difficult time quitting, do not want to give up their cannabis use, and are more likely to relapse to cigarette smoking,” said Patricia Folan.

She directs Northwell Health’s Centre for Tobacco Control in Great Neck, New York.

The new research was led by Dr Renee Goodwin of Columbia University School of Public Health in New York City. Her team tracked data on about 35000 American adults who took part in a national survey.

While the study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, her team found that marijuana use was associated with an increased risk that non-smokers would start smoking cigarettes. Pot smoking was also tied to a lower likelihood that smokers would quit and a greater chance that former smokers would return to the habit.

While cigarette smoking is declining in the US, the relaxation of laws against marijuana means its use is on the rise. That was why it was important to gain “a better understanding of the relationship between marijuana use and cigarette use”, she said.

A prior study by her team found a dramatic rise in the use of marijuana by cigarette smokers over the past two decade and that daily marijuana use is more than five times higher among cigarette smokers than among non-smokers.

Other experts agreed.

“This study demonstrates that smoking anything combustible is a generalised habit,” said Dr Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “It would seem that 'smoking is smoking’.”

Dr Alan Mensch, a pulmonologist and senior vice-president of medical affairs at Plainview and Syosset hospitals, in New York, said there was a worry that “cannabis use could negatively affect the success we’ve had in decreasing tobacco use and result in an increase in tobacco-related diseases and death”.

A greater focus on marijuana use was needed in efforts to reduce smoking and to help people stop smoking, Goodwin said. - HealthDay, The New York Times