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Smoking Pot May Cause Gum Disease – But It Still May Not Be As Bad as Smoking Cigarettes

By Keri Blakinger 06/13/16

More than 55% of the regular tokers that took part in the study had gum disease by age 38, compared to only 13.5% of those who never smoked up. 

Smoking Pot May Cause Gum Disease – But It Still May Not Be As Bad as Smoking Cigarettes

Aging hippies, beware! A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that middle-aged marijuana smokers may have a higher risk of gum disease. Since that’s also correlated with long-term cigarette smoking, that’s not a particularly surprising finding, but researchers also found that pot use is not associated with some of the other problems common to cigarette smoking. 

“What we're seeing is that cannabis may be harmful in some respects, but possibly not in every way," Avshalom Caspi, a study co-author and Duke University psychology and neuroscience professor said, according to Live Science. "We need to recognize that heavy recreational cannabis use does have some adverse consequences, but overall damage to physical health is not apparent in this study."  

The study—conducted on 1,037 New Zealanders born in 1972 or 1973—looked at whether people had toked between ages 18 and 38 and if they had certain health problems by the end of that time period. 

More than 55% of the regular tokers had gum disease by age 38, compared to only 13.5% of those who never smoked up. Some of the difference was explained by the fact that the stoners said they didn’t floss and brush as often. (Presumably, they also ate more brownies.) 

Aside from gum disease, perhaps surprisingly, the study found that pot smokers—unlike cigarette smokers—were no more likely to develop problems with lung function and cardiovascular health than people who never smoked marijuana.

“Cannabis use for up to 20 years is not associated with a specific set of physical health problems in early midlife. The sole exception is that cannabis use is associated with periodontal disease,” the researchers wrote, according to the American Dental Association.

However, the researchers cautioned that because the study stopped at age 38, it wouldn’t catch any problems that could crop up later in life. Some of the worst health problems linked to smoking—such as cancer—tend to surface later in life. 

Also, the study’s authors were careful to point out some of the other demonstrated hazards of smoking pot. The results, they wrote, "should be interpreted in the context of prior research showing that cannabis use is associated with accidents and injuries, bronchitis, acute cardiovascular events and, possibly, infectious diseases and cancer, as well as poor psychosocial and mental-health outcomes.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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