Is Marijuana More Harmful to the Lungs Than Tobacco? Exploring the Risks


The health effects of marijuana on the lungs have been a topic of debate, especially in light of recent studies and increasing legalization. Research varies, with some studies suggesting that marijuana could be more harmful to the lungs than tobacco, while others indicate the opposite.

A Canadian study published in the journal Radiology suggests that smoking marijuana may lead to more severe lung damage than smoking tobacco. This conclusion is based on CT scans from marijuana and tobacco smokers, highlighting the need for caution amid the drug’s increasing use and legalization.

Conversely, a large-scale national study led by UCSF and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, involving more than 5000 U.S. adults over 20 years, proposes that low to moderate marijuana use is less harmful to the lungs than tobacco. This study, which appears to contradict the Canadian findings, is detailed on UCSF’s website.

Marijuana smoke contains irritants that can harm lung tissue and lead to acute bronchospasm, causing coughing and difficulty breathing. Despite this, some researchers suggest that the deep inhalation technique used in smoking marijuana might expand lung volume and strengthen chest wall muscles, potentially offering some pulmonary benefits.

However, the risks extend beyond just smoking. Vaping marijuana is associated with more symptoms of lung damage than vaping or smoking nicotine, according to research from the University of Michigan, adding another layer of complexity to the issue. The CDC has also reported thousands of cases of hospitalization for lung injuries related to vaping, including products containing THC, marijuana’s main psychotropic ingredient.

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Is Marijuana More Harmful to the Lungs Than Tobacco? Exploring the Risks

While marijuana legalization in some regions may imply its harmlessness, the reality is more nuanced. Research into its impact on the lungs is ongoing, with findings pointing to both potential harms and benefits. The debate continues, with health experts urging caution and more research to fully understand the risks and benefits of marijuana use.

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