Scientists Discover a Startling Potential Link Between Marijuana Legalization and Asthma

A rise in asthma cases has been observed in children from certain racial and ethnic minority groups in states where recreational use of marijuana has been legalized.

A recent study conducted by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and The City University of New York has revealed that there has been a rise in the prevalence of asthma among teenagers in states where recreational use of cannabis has been legalized, as well as among children from certain racial and ethnic minority groups in states with recreational legalization, in comparison to states where it remains fully illegal.

The findings of the study offer initial indications that the legalization and commercialization of cannabis for adult use could be linked to an increase in asthma prevalence. This study is the first to investigate the connection between changes in cannabis policy for adult use and the incidence of asthma among children and teenagers. The findings have been published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

“Our findings suggest that state-level cannabis policy could have downstream impacts on children’s respiratory health,” said Renee D. Goodwin, Ph.D., adjunct associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and professor at The City University of New York. “Cannabis use is increasing among adults with children in the home, particularly in states which have legalized for medical or recreational use. Exposure to secondhand smoke is a key risk factor for asthma among children. This study offers a critical first step in identifying a key children’s health concern emerging in the context of rapid, ongoing changes in cannabis policy that are unaccompanied by clinical or public health guidelines for parents.”

Asthma affects approximately 5 million children and is the most common chronic condition affecting children in the nation. The researchers used data from the 2011-2019 National Survey on Children’s Health, a representative sample of the physical and mental health of non-institutionalized children in the U.S. ages 0-17 years old.

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