After decades of battling secondhand tobacco smoke, the Washoe County Health District has a new public health challenge and no funds with which to fight it: marijuana.
That was the message Wednesday from public health officials at the first annual Nevada Cannabis and Vaping Summit.
“Our campaigns were not funded with specific money for outreach. We pulled them from other projects because we knew this, the message was very important,” Erin Dixon, the public health supervisor for the Washoe County Health District, said at the summit.
Secondhand marijuana smoke contains many of the same cancer-causing substances and toxic chemicals as secondhand tobacco smoke and can have similar negative impacts on cardiovascular health, warns the American Lung Association.
With the reduction of cigarette use in the U.S. and the increase in cannabis use, public health officials have argued that public health campaigns must address the newly legalized drug.
A lack of federal dollars for marijuana education has also been an issue. Federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not fund marijuana related public health campaigns because it remains illegal under federal law, meaning state officials are left on their own.
To keep costs low, the county has used billboards and social media to spread public health information but health officials argue that more is needed to protect public health.
“We found a large gap in what consumers knew. Consumers just didn’t know how much edibles to consume and how not to take that second dose,” Dixon said.
That gap in information can have lethal health implications. In 2019, the Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) recorded 272 auto collisions involving cannabis, a significant increase from