What Is a Spliff?

Published January 20, 2022
What Is a Spliff? - Secret Nature

“Excuse me while I light my spliff, oh God, I got to take a lift,” Reggae legend Bob Marley crooned in an early Wailers hit, “Easy Skanking.” The biggest name in Rasta probably wasn’t referring to a joint with a mix of weed and tobacco, though. In this case, “spliff” probably just meant “joint.”

This example illustrates just how confusing one of the most obscure cannabis phrases can become. In this guide, we’ll tell you exactly what a spliff is as we unravel this word’s uniquely ambiguous history.

What is a spliff in slang?

In American cannabis slang, the term “spliff” usually refers to a joint that contains roughly equal amounts of tobacco and cannabis. The tobacco for a spliff can be removed from a cigarette, but you can also use loose rolling tobacco. Cannabis users usually save their low-grade cannabis for spliffs since no one in their right minds would consider smoking tobacco a connoisseur experience.

Spliffs are usually around the same size as joints, but they’re very different in terms of aroma, taste, and effects. The taste and smell of tobacco have a way of overriding everything else. While you’ll taste the weed in your spliff smoke, you won’t really want to due to the simultaneous presence of acrid tobacco.

Some people smoke spliffs specifically for their effects. They might be addicted to tobacco, in which case smoking a spliff kills two birds with one “stone.” Or, they might simply like tobacco’s stimulating effects when combined with the cannabis high.

As tobacco has gone out of favor, spliffs have gone out of favor with it. Less convenient and worse-tasting than conventional joints, smoking spliffs also has the potential of getting you addicted to nicotine.

Is a spliff a joint or a blunt?

Spliffs are neither joints nor blunts, but they bear similarities to each alternative cannabis-smoking option. Joints and spliffs usually look alike since they’re rolled with the same standard papers. Traditional blunt wraps are made with tobacco leaves, but blunts are much bigger than spliffs, and they usually don’t contain tobacco inside. Smokeables that are rolled like blunts but contain mixtures of tobacco and cannabis are sometimes called “bliffs:” a combination of “blunt” and “spliff.”

Spliffs vs. joints vs. blunts: detailed breakdown

Let’s take a look at the differences between joints, spliffs, and blunts in a little more detail:

Spliff vs. blunt

Here’s how spliffs and blunts are similar:

  • Both traditionally contain tobacco in one way or another
  • Both provide intenser-than-usual cannabis experiences

Here, however, are the ways blunts and spliffs differ

  • With the advent of tea papers, blunts no longer must be rolled with tobacco leaves
  • Some blunts don’t contain any tobacco whatsoever
  • Blunts are bigger than spliffs, which usually are around the size of joints
  • Spliffs taste and smell much more like tobacco than even tobacco-rolled blunts

Spliff vs. joint

The average observer might not be able to tell the difference between a spliff and a joint until they take their first puff. Any differences will become instantly apparent at that point, but you can also tell the difference between a joint and spliff by smelling it before you light it. Here’s why you might get joints and spliffs confused:

  • Spliffs and joints are usually the same size
  • They’re rolled using the same type of paper
  • They may sometimes be referred to using the same terminology

However, spliffs and joints are certainly quite different. Here’s why:

  • Joints do not contain tobacco, but spliffs do
  • Natural cannabis joints taste great, tobacco does not
  • Smoking a joint won’t leave lingering odors behind, but spliffs will

Many cannabis users find the stimulating effects of nicotine to be undesirable. They also don’t like the taste of tobacco, and they don’t want to get addicted to nicotine. Many modern cannabis consumers simply view rolling spliffs as an undesirable last-ditch method for stretching out a bag of weed for budgetary reasons.

Are spliffs popular around the world?

Given how often the term “spliff” is used in places outside the United States, it would be natural to assume that people around the world are much bigger fans of smoking cannabis and tobacco together than Americans. The truth is, though, that the people of Earth have come together in condemning tobacco as stinky, addictive, and undesirable. A conflation of terms is the issue at hand, not a sudden resurgence of tobacco culture.

You see, in regions that were once under British influence, including Bob Marley’s home country of Jamaica, the term “spliff” is used to refer to the smokeable Americans would almost universally call a “joint,” even to this very day. Contemporary Britons ask their buddies to pass the spliff when they’re sharing a joint together. In British English slang, spliff means joint, and the word “joint” can refer to quite a few different things that have nothing to do with cannabis.

Why is it called a spliff?

There are a few different ideas regarding where the word “spliff” originally came from. Some Urban Dictionary contributors seem convinced a spliff is when you “split the difference” between weed and tobacco in a joint. However, this narrative doesn’t explain the longstanding popularity of “spliff” in British English as a term referring to a joint that only contains cannabis.

The most likely theory is that “spliff” is a term of West Indies origin that traveled to Britain from Jamaica. In reality, Bob Marley may have used spliff as a reverential ancestral term, and modern usage of the word may simply be yet another example of cultural appropriation.

When did the word “spliff” originate?

We may never know exactly where the word “spliff” came from, but we’re happy to give this one to Jamaica and the overall reggae movement. The smokeables Americans refer to with this term are noxious and less-desirable compared to normal joints, which is exactly what “spliff” means in its (purportedly) original Jamaican context.

What is a spliff in England?

If you ask a British person to smoke a spliff with you and pull out a joint that also contains tobacco, your international friendship might be ruined. To people in England and everywhere else British English is spoken, “spliff” usually means a joint that contains only cannabis, not cannabis mixed with tobacco.

What is a real spliff?

The definition of a “real spliff” depends on who you ask, but to Americans, no spliff will be truly real unless it contains some amount of tobacco. Leave it to our rugged, individualistic culture to think up the most hardcore, nastiest way to smoke weed. There’s nothing particularly manly, however, about unnecessarily contaminating your cannabis with a substance known to cause lung cancer and emphysema.

How do spliffs make you feel?

In contrast to smoking weed on its own, smoking cannabis and tobacco together in a spliff will provide the stimulating effects of nicotine along with the characteristic THC “high.” The effects of nicotine will dissipate faster than those of THC. Some spliff smokers contend that nicotine boosts the initial effects of THC, but just as many critics contend that, as an “upper,” nicotine inherently conflicts with weed’s chill vibe.

What does a spliff smell like?

Spliff smoke smells more like tobacco than cannabis. The aroma of cannabis is definitely noticeable, however, making spliffs more conspicuous than normal tobacco cigarettes. To its credit, smoking spliffs can be an effective way to at least somewhat mask public cannabis use since the average passerby won’t assume any aromas of cannabis and tobacco they detect are coming from the same source.

Will a spliff make your room stink?

Yes, smoking a spliff inside will make any indoor environment smell like you just smoked tobacco—which you did. Adding cannabis into the mix doesn’t make tobacco less stinky, and just like normal cigarettes, spliffs will leave lingering odors behind and stain walls if you smoke inside.

Will a spliff make your car stink?

Smoking a spliff in your car will produce both cannabis and tobacco aromas. If you’re pulled over while smoking a spliff, for instance, law enforcement won’t be fooled by the presence of tobacco’s acrid odor alongside the telltale skunky haze of cannabis.

How do you roll a spliff?

Rolling a spliff is just like rolling a joint. The only difference is that you add tobacco before sealing the paper. To get tobacco for a spliff, simply crush the end of a cigarette until the shredded tobacco leaves come out.

How do you spark a spliff?

There’s no special trick to lighting your spliff aside from saying “excuse me.” But, that’s only if you’re trying to emulate Bob Marley. Simply light your lighter, put your spliff in your mouth, and light the end of your tobacco-cannabis smokable. Don’t forget to hold your nose.

Skip the tobacco in your next spliff

It’s easy to roll a spliff without any tobacco: Just ask anyone who speaks British English. Tobacco is so passé these days: Let’s take a leaf from our transatlantic cousins and adopt the British interpretation of the word “spliff,” leaving our nicotine-stained ideas of the term in the history books where they belong.
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