In the UK, most people roll their weed along with tobacco. This is the way I was shown when I first started smoking in my teens, and it wasn’t until I ran into some Canadians whilst travelling that I discovered it’s not the norm in many countries.
As far as I can tell, mixing weed and tobacco is a European thing, while smoking joints consisting of pure weed is common in the U.S and Canada.
The reason for this, I believe, is that hash rather than flower was most common in Europe for a long time, and hash is impossible to smoke in a joint on its own. Europeans, therefore, used tobacco in order to smoke hash in a joint.
And it’s just carried on over the decades, even as cannabis flower has spread across the continent.
History of mixing of cannabis and tobacco
The smoking of tobacco goes back to as early as 5000 BC, as part of shamanistic rituals in the Americas. Cannabis, meanwhile, has been used for just as long – probably longer – but reports of smoking it don’t surface until the 16th century.
It is suggested that the arrival of the Europeans in the Americas in the 16th century led to the spread of tobacco smoking around the world. The popularity of smoking tobacco may, therefore, have given people the idea of adding cannabis or hashish to their cigarettes or pipes.
While there is some evidence of cannabis being smoked before this, such as these bongs found in Russia that date to a few hundred years BC, cannabis was mostly eaten, vaporised on hot rocks or charcoal, or burned as incense or in vessels and inhaled indirectly.
Evidence of direct smoking before the 16th century is limited, although pipes thought to have been used to smoke cannabis dated to the 10th to 12th centuries have also been found in Ethiopia.
Therefore, we can assume that the smoking of cannabis and tobacco together first took hold following the spread of tobacco around the world and the introduction of hashish into Europe from Asia, which both took place in the late 15th and 16th centuries.
Reasons for adding tobacco today
If you ask someone in the UK why they add tobacco to their joints, there’s a good chance they’ll give you one of a few common reasons. They are as follows:
- It’s saves money/weed
This is a common reason for adding tobacco to weed. Weed is not cheap – £10 a gram is standard, although you can easily pay more – so filling a spliff out with tobacco seems like a good way to make weed last longer.
Having said that, adding tobacco to cannabis increases the rewarding effects, thus making it more addictive. This means that you’ll probably smoke more often than is you were smoking weed by itself.
- Pure weed is too strong
Weed is strong these days and smoking a pure joint can be an intense experience. Many people who add tobacco find that a pure joint tickles their throat and is hard to fully inhale, and also that it gets them super high.
In my opinion, it does take a little while for your throat and lungs to get used to smoking pure weed, but you adapt quickly. And if it’s getting you too high, you can, of course, just smoke smaller joints or just take a few hits. Bongs and pipes are also handy for smoking pure weed. Or you could vape it.
- It tastes better
This is a strange one because it’s clear to most that weed on its own has a superior flavour than tobacco. However, I guess people get used to the flavour of them combined and so that’s what they learn to prefer.
If you want to really taste your weed, try it in a dry herb vape and you’ll be amazed. Just the act of combustion when smoking weed can affect the taste dramatically.
- You get higher
Many proponents of mixing cannabis with tobacco claim that it gets you higher, hits your harder, or is more intense than smoking weed alone. This kind of makes sense as smoking tobacco does give a pretty obvious head rush, which can make the initial experience of smoking more intense.
Additionally, nicotine stimulates adrenaline production, and one study even found that tobacco increases the vaporisation efficiency of THC by as much as 45%.
However, this study looked at the subjective experience of adding tobacco to weed and found no difference. “There’s a persistent myth that adding tobacco to cannabis will make you more stoned, but we found that actually, it does nothing to improve the subjective experience,” said the study’s lead author, Chandni Hindocha.
Health risks of mixing tobacco and weed
Smoking is not healthy. I hope we all know this by now. Even smoking pure cannabis, while not linked to cancer or any non-reversible health problems, is still inflammatory and can cause damage to your lungs.
The risks of smoking tobacco are well known and include increased cancer rates, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), among other conditions.
It has also been found that adding tobacco to weed increases chances of cannabis dependence or addiction.
Benefits of mixing weed and tobacco
While I gave up smoking tobacco over three years ago, I’ve recently been adding it to weed in a dry herb vape. The main reason I do this is because nicotine has the ability to prevent memory impairment caused by THC.
I’ve found the combo quite useful, and it’s efficacy is backed up by this study. As I’m only vaping the tobacco, I’m avoiding most health risks. Although there is some risk of addiction, it’s minimal as I don’t vape tobacco every day and I make sure to only use small amounts.
There’s another study on combining tobacco and weed that encouraged me to start mixing them more often. This 2019 study found that connectivity across multiple brain regions suffers when using nicotine or when using cannabis on their own. However, connectivity of those who use both substances together resembles that of nonusers.
This suggests that “nicotine’s cognition-enhancing effects may facilitate cannabis use by counteracting cannabis’ negative impact on networks supporting cognition.”
Put simply, nicotine may exert a protective effect when it comes to memory and functional connectivity of the brain.
Best tobacco alternatives for joints
If you are looking for some to replace tobacco in your joins (or bongs, pipes, vapes, etc.) then look no further. I got you covered…
This is what I used to stop smoking tobacco completely. At first, I used low-grade hemp tea with levels of CBD around 2-5%, but now you can get high-grade hemp bud with up to 20% CBD..
While high-grade hemp flower is more expensive (up to £10 a gram), it tastes just like regular weed and is a very smooth smoke – providing you buy from a well-established vendor.
The CBD in hemp flower can also counteract the anxiety and paranoia caused by THC. In my opinion, hemp flower is the ideal tobacco replacement.
You can read more about my experiences giving up tobacco with the help of hemp here.
2. CBD herbal mixes
CBD herbal mixes, such as this one from IceHeadShop that we recently reviewed, offer an ideal replacement for tobacco. They combine legal herbs, cannabinoids, and terpenes for a flavourful, smooth smoke.
The herb sage has long been revered for its medicinal power and used for such many digestive conditions. Dry leaves of white sage are often used in herbal smoking blends as it burns well, has a pleasant, minty taste and smooth smoke.
More well known for use as a tea, chamomile can actually be smoked as a tobacco substitute too. It may have anti-anxiety effects and can improve the quality of sleep. Try to get the dried buds of chamomile rather than regular chamomile tea.
Known for its aphrodisiac effects, damiana is believed to have many other health benefits. When smoked, people also say the damiana also produces a slight high. It also rolls up and burns well, and the smoke is clean and smooth.
6. AVB (already vaped bud)
Short for ‘already vaped bud’, AVB is what you get left with after you vape weed in a dry herb vaporiser. While it may look like brown, old weed, it actually still contains some THC and it still burns quite well in a joint.
Alternatively, AVB can be used to make simple edibles, as the THC will have already been decarbed (activated) when it was heated in the vape.
7. Just vape instead
If you haven’t given dry herb vaping a go, it’s definitely worth a try. Not only will it remove the need for tobacco, it is much healthier than smoking and even more economical as a little weed in a vape goes a long way.