Does Smoking Marijuana Pose Greater Lung Risks Than Tobacco?


The debate on the health impacts of marijuana, especially on lung health, is ongoing and multifaceted. While some studies suggest that marijuana smoke may be less harmful to the lungs than tobacco, others point to potentially greater risks associated with its use.

At the core of this discussion is the fact that Marijuana & Lung Cancer Risk – Mayo Clinic Health System acknowledges the presence of irritants in marijuana smoke, which can lead to conditions like acute bronchospasm and chronic bronchitis. This is particularly concerning given that regular marijuana smoking can destroy the cilia in the lungs, as a UCLA study published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society found.

Does Smoking Marijuana Pose Greater Lung Risks Than Tobacco?

In contrast, a 2012 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that moderate consumption of marijuana does not adversely affect lung function. This study, highlighted by UCSF, suggests that smoking one joint a day for up to seven years might not impair lung function. However, this conclusion is contrasted by more recent findings from the Ottawa Hospital Department of Radiology, indicating that lung damage might be more common in marijuana smokers than tobacco users.

The various methods of consuming cannabis also play a role in its impact on lung health. According to Harvard Health, alternatives to smoking, like under-the-tongue tinctures, edibles, topicals, or dry herb vaporizers, may be safer for the lungs. Despite these alternatives, the potential for chronic bronchitis remains a concern, especially when cannabis is inhaled.

Furthermore, the heart-related risks associated with marijuana use cannot be overlooked. Harvard Health notes that marijuana can cause the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise, posing dangers for individuals with heart disease.

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Given these conflicting reports and studies, it remains unclear whether smoking marijuana poses greater lung risks than tobacco. While some evidence suggests lower harm from low to moderate marijuana use, the potential for lung irritants, bronchitis, and heart risks introduces an element of doubt in the conversation. As marijuana legalization spreads, understanding its full impact on respiratory health becomes increasingly important.

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