How much tobacco is in a marijuana blunt?

Since marijuana ‘blunt’ smoking (i.e., rolling marijuana inside a hollowed cigar) is quite popular in the US, my research has been trying to understand the causes and potential health consequences of this mixing of tobacco and marijuana. However, a vexing and unanswered question is the degree to which blunt smokers are even exposed to nicotine. Working with my collaborators at Johns Hopkins and RTI International, our recent research begins to answer this question. I’ve been invited to present these new findings at the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) conference in June 2016. Below is the abstract for our late-breaking research:

Nicotine content of cigar shells and wraps used for making marijuana blunts

Brian J. Fairman, Brian F. Thomas, and Ryan G. Vandrey

Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD
RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC
Behavioral Pharmacology Research Unit, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD

Background: Half of past-month cannabis users in the US report “blunt” use, i.e., cannabis wrapped in a cigar shell. Significant nicotine exposure may result, affecting use patterns, dependence, and health-related harms, but the level of exposure is unclear. The present study assessed the nicotine content of cigar shells commonly used to make blunts and evaluated biomarkers of nicotine exposure in blunt users.

Methods: Gas chromatography (GC) was used to measure the nicotine content (mg/g) of cigar shells in 8 commercial products, including complete cigars and cigar wrappers sold without tobacco fill. Product weight (g) and median nicotine content were compared to standard reference cigarettes. Semi-quantitative (LOQ 200ng/mL) testing for cotinine, a nicotine metabolite, was conducted on urine samples from daily blunt users self-reporting no other nicotine/tobacco use (N=6).

Results: Cigar shells had a median nicotine content of 5.4mg/g (range: 3.5- 22.5mg/g) and weight of 0.49g (range: 0.3-2.0g). By comparison, reference cigarettes contained a median nicotine content of 18.5mg/g and weight of 0.76g. Adjusted for weight, cigar shells had about one-fifth (19%) the nicotine content as a standard cigarette. Two of six daily blunt users had positive cotinine urine tests (range <200-931ng/mL).

Conclusions: Cannabis users may be consuming the nicotine equivalent of about one cigarette for every five blunts smoked. Qualitative testing of a small number of blunt users was consistent with significant nicotine exposure in some cases. A lack of filter, smoking topography, and frequency may affect true daily exposure to nicotine and other harmful tobacco byproducts via blunts. Epidemiological and controlled studies measuring cotinine levels of blunt smokers may provide supporting evidence of tobacco exposure. Regulating the nicotine content of these products may be a target for tobacco and cannabis control efforts.

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11 thoughts on “How much tobacco is in a marijuana blunt?

    1. Thanks for the question! It is not published yet, as we are planning on collecting additional data, but another group published findings similar to ours:

      Peters, E. N., Schauer, G. L., Rosenberry, Z. R., & Pickworth, W. B. (2016). Does marijuana “blunt” smoking contribute to nicotine exposure?: Preliminary product testing of nicotine content in wrappers of cigars commonly used for blunt smoking. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 168(Nov), 119–122. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.09.007

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  1. can you post the individual results of each tobacco product tested?? if you still have them. i’d like to know the specific content of nicotine in each wrap. most people just stick to one

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  2. i’d like to know if you could do an experiment on resin. most weed smokers have smoked resin at one point it’s basically after you use a glass piece for a while it gets dirty with resin. some people scrape that off and smoke it. maybe level of thc content and what it’s actually composed of? it’s like a black tar

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    1. I don’t believe anyone has specifically tested the cannabinoid content of what you’re describing or how common is the practice. A recent paper by a French group reported the THC content of cannabis resin as of 2016 (23%), but their definition of what constitutes “resin” is likely to be different from what your describing. As to the full chemical composition of this substance (in terms of cannabinoids and other byproducts), that is also unclear. However, it likely contains similar compounds as cannabis smoke when combusted.

      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0379073817300129

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