The results from 2017’s Global Drug Survey have revealed an interesting statistic about how Americans prefer to smoke their weed. According to the results published on Wednesday, marijuana smokers in the United States are the least likely in the world to add tobacco to their weed, producing what’s known as a spliff. When compared to the top 20 spliff-smoking countries on the list, U.S. smokers are up to 11.75 times less likely to smoke their pot with tobacco.
The data also suggested that some countries would scoff at this missed opportunity. In Italy — the world’s number one spliff-smoking country — 94 percent of smokers add tobacco. Finland comes in at number 20, with 58 percent of that country’s smokers adding tobacco. In the U.S., by strong contrast, only eight percent of marijuana smokers surveyed say they smoke marijuana with tobacco.
There are a lot of reasons to smoke spliffs. Adding dry tobacco to super-sticky weed, for one, creates air pockets between pieces of resinous plant material, which means more airflow and a lower likelihood that the smoking experience will get choked by gunk. Tobacco is also a great way to stretch out your cannabis supply, so you can roll a joint with less weed. And hey, sometimes you don’t want to get too high, so mixing weed with tobacco is a good way to smoke without impairing yourself too much.
There’s another reason for smoking spliffs, however, that seems to explain why Europeans smoke so much more tobacco with their weed than Americans do: The availability of hashish.
Hashish, or hash, is an extremely concentrated form of cannabis that usually takes the form of hard bricks, which range in color from gold to dark brown. It’s become popular in Europe for several reasons, partially because of legal restrictions on cannabis as well as because of the continent’s proximity to marijuana-producing regions. Over the past few decades, the combination of prohibition (which has a tendency to make drugs stronger, as moonshine in the 1920s illustrated) and easy access to north African growers who traditionally make and use hash has European smokers consuming as much hash as herb by weight. It helps that hash, being more compact, is easier to smuggle than bulky weed. And since hash can be hard to smoke casually without fancy equipment, spliffs have become a dominant method of marijuana consumption.
The United States, in contrast, has long enjoyed marijuana imports from Canada and Mexico as well as from indoor and outdoor grow operations around the country. As such, there hasn’t been as much of a need to concentrate cannabis down for easier smuggling. Now that legalization is rolling forward in many states, concentrates are more a matter of preference than necessity.
However, it’s also true that Europeans smoke more tobacco than people in the United States do, so the fact that more Europeans smoke spliffs is a little less surprising. But the massive disparity between European and American spliff smokers probably can’t be accounted for solely by the difference in cigarette smoking numbers, which remains relatively small.