White House Ad Encourages Teen Use of Addictive, Cancer-Causing Drug

New Campaign Directly Contradicts Data on Tobacco, Marijuana

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A new White House ad campaign encourages teen cigarette use by falsely telling parents that tobacco is far less dangerous to kids than marijuana, officials of the Marijuana Policy Project charged today. "By inaccurately portraying cigarettes as relatively harmless, the White House is condemning thousands of young people to a life of addiction and early death from cancer and emphysema," said MPP Director of Government Relations Steve Fox.

The new ad, which started running this week in papers such as USA Today and The New York Times, claims, "Quite a few people think that smoking pot is less likely to cause cancer than a regular cigarette. You may even have heard some parents say they'd rather their kid smoked a little pot than get hooked on cigarettes. Wrong, and wrong again. ... One joint can deliver four times as much cancer-causing tar as one cigarette."

But the ad's claim is directly contradicted by extensive research, including the 1999 White House-commissioned Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base." While marijuana smoke does contain tars, the IOM concluded, "There is no conclusive evidence that marijuana causes cancer in humans, including cancers usually related to tobacco use." While multiple studies have confirmed that tobacco smokers have far higher lung cancer rates than nonsmokers, no such correlation has been clearly documented among marijuana smokers who don't use cigarettes. In a 60,000-patient, 10-year study, marijuana smokers who didn't smoke cigarettes actually had a lower lung cancer rate than nonsmokers.

The IOM noted that marijuana smokers generally smoke far less than tobacco smokers, and considerable research has now confirmed that marijuana's active components, called cannabinoids, stop cancer cell growth. Copies of studies related to marijuana, tobacco, and cancer are available from MPP Director of Communications Bruce Mirken.

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