- The researchers found a decrease of 1% in the prevalence of pediatric asthma from 2011-2012 to 2018-2019.
- The prevalence of asthma increased among youth between the ages of 12 and 17 in states where legislatures have legalized recreational cannabis use.
- The prevalence of asthma also increased among children from non-Hispanic minority groups in these states.
- The ecological study used data from the 2011-2019 National Survey on Children’s Health.
A study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the City University of New York found an increase in the prevalence of asthma among older children in states where legislatures have legalized recreational cannabis use.
This study is the first, according to its authors, to look at state-level cannabis law changes and the incidence of childhood asthma.
The researchers’ findings were published in the journal preventive medicine.
“Nobody has really written anything about it or done any studies,” says Renee Goodwin, associate professor in the department of epidemiology at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, professor at the City University of New York and co-author of this study Medical news today.
For their study, the researchers used data from the National Survey on Children’s Health (NSCH), a representative sample of the population of underage children in the United States.
Researchers used NSCH data to calculate the prevalence of nurse-reported pediatric asthma. The figures were produced for the years 2011-2012, 2016-2017 and 2018-2019.
The sample consisted of 227,451 US children. The median age was just over 8. Of the children, nearly 51% were male and nearly 60% identified as non-Hispanic White, nearly 17% Hispanic, and 12% non-Hispanic Black.
The researchers calculated that the prevalence of pediatric asthma was almost 9% in 2011-2012. This figure dropped to 8% in 2016-2017 and 7.8% in 2018-2019.
“Overall, reductions were generally greater in states with no cannabis legalization or with more recent legalization [legalization of medical marijuana]the reduction rate was not statistically different by [whether or not a state had legalized recreational use or medicinal use of cannabis]’ the researchers write in the paper about their study.
Among adolescents aged 12 to 17, the prevalence of asthma increased in states with cannabis laws, particularly in states that had legalized recreational marijuana use.
Overall, the increase in pediatric asthma among children who identified as non-Hispanic minorities was significantly greater in states where recreational and medical cannabis was legal than in states where cannabis is not legal.
The greatest overall increase in pediatric asthma in states where recreational cannabis use is legal is among Hispanic youth.
The researchers warn in the paper that their findings do not establish a direct link between marijuana laws and increases in the prevalence of pediatric asthma.
dr Brian Christman, a volunteer spokesman for the American Lung Association and a professor and vice chair of clinical affairs and associate program director for the Medicine Residency Program at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, pointed out the declining numbers in the prevalence of pediatric asthma that are shown in the Studies.
He attributes the change in part to public health work surrounding cigarette smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.
“What it tells us is that we’ve done a great job on tobacco control,” he said MNT. “And so the prevalence of asthma in children has just gone down in most states, which is great.”
The fact that the prevalence of asthma has increased among adolescents aged 12 to 17 in states with cannabis legislation reflects that “it is evidently being used at home by growing children who are more likely to have asthma in the newspaper, and this irritates their airways.”
Christman emphasized that the study, in which he was not involved, had a large number of participants.
“The numbers aren’t huge, but when you see a few percentage changes and you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people, that’s probably important,” he said.
said Goodwin MNT She conducted this study because she noticed how quickly different states were moving to legalize recreational marijuana use, although she believes there needs to be more and better public health information regarding cannabis.
“There’s a perception that cannabis smoke is different or harmless compared to cigarette smoke,” she said.
Goodwin pointed out that pediatricians have a checklist of questions to ask about children’s homes. However, the list does not include a question about whether or not someone smokes cannabis indoors in the home, she said.
“There is no guidance for parents and no guidance for clinicians,” Goodwin said.
Parents who smoke cannabis are better off smoking outside, Christman said MNT.
“To be considerate of your family, especially with children when they have growing and developing lungs,” he said. “Or you can have long-term effects from that kind of exposure.”
The highest prevalence of cannabis use in this study was among those between the ages of 18 and 25 in states where recreational use of cannabis is legal and among those identifying as non-Hispanic, black in states with legalized recreational use.
As more parents use cannabis, Goodwin says, they need to know if it’s dangerous to smoke second-hand cannabis.
However, according to Goodwin, more research needs to be done on this topic.
“State legislators are acting in the absence of scientific data,” she said.
Another previous study confirmed the presence of known carcinogens and other chemicals involved in respiratory diseases in marijuana cigarette smoke.
“There’s growing data that it’s not benign and may even have more harmful effects than tobacco,” Goodwin said.
Public health education has persuaded some parents to go outside to smoke tobacco cigarettes because they know secondhand smoke isn’t good for children, Goodwin pointed out.
With cannabis, depending on the state, the law can make it difficult to go outside. Possession of cannabis may be legal in some states, but it may be illegal to use it in public. According to Goodwin, this could result in parents being reluctant to step outside to smoke.
“You can’t just go outside,” she said.