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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Thursday 7th June 2012

It’s not about what you have to say. It is about how loud you are able to say it and how much the people listening want to hear you. A day after writing about the British Lung Foundation (BLF) report ‘The impact of cannabis on your lungs’ I came across an altogether more worthwhile document on the subject.

I’ll come back to that but, first, I’d like to thank all those people who retweeted my blog announcement. It made it the second most accessed piece of writing I’ve ever done (This piece about Peter Hitchens being the first) and showed me how the ‘network’ part of Twitter works. People who follow people who follow people who follow me found out about it.
The BLF report itself drew attention from other quarters. There were more mainstream media reports from the BBC the Telegraph the Independent Metro  and Huffington Post.  And there were commentaries from UKCIA and CLEAR.

The mainstream media followed the same pattern as those I commented on yesterday in taking the possible from the BLF report and making it certain. Only the BBC had a comment, from Peter Reynolds of CLEAR, saying that this was a propaganda document not a research report.

Reynolds was also the author of CLEAR’s commentary in which he provides details of research, ignored by the BLF, that found no indication of increased risk, over tobacco alone, of lung disease from cannabis. The UKCIA concentrates on the various misrepresentations in the media reports before making the point I made, yesterday, that the illicit status of cannabis is a major barrier to undertaking proper research.

But what of that other document I referred to, above? I only saw this today, when looking at the July issue of ‘Addiction’ though it was published online in April. It is entitled ‘The co-occurring use and misuse of cannabis and tobacco: a review’1 and looks at all aspects of the use of the two substances together. On ‘Health-related Harms’ it says the ‘link to lung cancer is tenuous’ but gives detail of research that does point to possible respiratory effects from smoking cannabis.

The conclusion of the abstract says ‘There is an urgent need for research…’

Why did this much more rigorous review not attract the attention being given to the BLF report? Well, in the first place, it doesn’t make a clear claim that cannabis is very dangerous so it isn’t saying what the mainstream media wants to listen to. And, with so many scientific papers and reports being published, science journalists cannot be expected to find everything of interest; they rely on their attention being obtained via press releases. But, most importantly, as I said at the start it is not about what you are saying, it is about how loudly you say it and, unfortunately, it is harder to be heard when you are calling out from behind a paywall.


1.The co-occurring use and misuse of cannabis and tobacco: a review  Agrawal, Budney & Lynskey Addiction Volume 107, Issue 7, pages 1221–1233, July 2012

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