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'The Toker' uses humour to highlight cannabis risks

Chronically short-of-breath superhero can't seem to save the day

He's not a joker, but he's definitely a smoker and a midnight toker.

A series of 30-second cartoons starring a seriously short-of-breath hero named The Toker aims to drive home the message that smoking marijuana can damage your lungs.

Produced by the Ontario Lung Association, in partnership with their counterparts in B.C., Manitoba and Saskatchewan, funding was also provided by Health Canada. 

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas posted a picture of herself with would-be superhero on social media Thursday. 

“I met the Toker,” Gélinas wrote. “Everything you wanted to know about smoking cannabis but were afraid to ask.”

In the first episode of the 30-second, extremely campy cartoons, aliens invade and start to take over.

“I must rise to the city's defence!” the Toker declares, but is overcome with wheezing and coughing on his way.

“Can the Toker help innocent citizens breathe easier?” asks the narrator? “Probably not.”

A second episode finds him sitting on a bench covered by a cloud of pot smoke as a thief runs past. The Toker gives chase, but he quickly begings wheezing and fighting for air as his smart phone tracks the crook slowly getting away.

In the third episode, all he has to do is walk a short distance to hit a button to stop a missile launch, but begins coughing and hacking and, as you might guess, never quite makes it.

Each episode refers views to website, where more serious information about lung damage associated with smoking joints can be found.

“Weed, pot, marijuana. Whatever you call it, cannabis is a legal substance with many potential therapeutic uses – but also many potential lung health risks,” the website says. “It is most commonly smoked or vaped, but other non-inhaled methods exist, too.”

While there is no proven link between cannabis and lung cancer, the site says more research is being done to find out for sure. Either way, smoking it can seriously damage your lungs because joint smokers tend to inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs longer than cigarette smokers. 

“Cannabis is smoked at higher temperatures, without filters, and to a shorter butt length when in joint form,” the site says. “This means that the harmful substances lurking in cannabis smoke have more time and opportunity to wreak havoc on your lungs.

“Smoking is the most harmful method of consuming cannabis, with both short-term and long-term effects on your lung health.” 

Airway injuries, excessive phlegm and lung infections are all significant risks for joint smokers. To avoid these issues, the site recommends using non-smoke alternatives, inhaling less deeply, cutting back on the amount you consume and choosing marijuana with higher CBD content and lower THC.

“The Ontario Lung Association would like to thank all researchers who are working tirelessly to investigate the lung health effects of cannabis,” the site says.

“They are proof that not all heroes wear capes.”

The 30-second videos are available in both English and French.