By / October 19, 2023

The Science Is Clear: Smoking Cannabis Is Safer Than Smoking Tobacco

A significant majority of Americans believe that smoking cigarettes is more harmful to health than smoking cannabis. And they are right according to science.

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Research Findings on Smoking

Numerous studies on the long-term health effects resulting from exposure to cannabis smoke debunk the myth that smoking cannabis is associated with the same well-documented dangers to the respiratory system as smoking tobacco.

For instance, research funded by the government at the University of California, Los Angeles evaluated the risk of lung cancer among over 2000 long-term smokers of cannabis, tobacco, and non-smokers.

Researchers found that people who regularly smoked cigarettes had a 20-times higher risk of developing lung cancer compared to non-smokers. For people who smoked only cannabis, no increased risk of lung cancer was observed.

“We assumed there would be a positive association between using cannabis and lung cancer,” explained the main author of the study. “Instead, we found no association, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.”

Comparisons to Smoking Tobacco

Recently, a team of health experts wrote in the journal Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases that neither past nor present smoking of cannabis “in any amount over a lifetime” was associated with the progression or development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Other studies show that smoke from cannabis and tobacco is not equally carcinogenic, and individuals smoking only cannabis are less exposed to harmful toxins and carcinogenic substances than tobacco smokers. Some scientists also argue that the anti-cancer effects of cannabinoids may offset some of the risks associated with inhaling smoke.

Diverging Effects on the Lungs

According to the results of an article recently published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, “it is increasingly apparent that cannabis has a different effect on lung function than tobacco, and the effects of widespread cannabis use will not necessarily reflect the damage caused by tobacco smoking.”

A separate study, recently published by researchers from the University of Arkansas, is even more direct. “Data on cannabis contrast with evidence on the harm of tobacco, the world’s largest legal killer,” they stated. “The potential toxicity of cannabis is nothing compared to tobacco.”

Health Risks

This doesn’t mean that exposure to cannabis smoke is entirely harmless. Cannabis smoke contains some of the same toxins and particulate matter found in tobacco smoke. Some studies also indicate a temporary increase in phlegm production and the occurrence of “wheezing breath,” as well as an increased risk of bronchitis inflammation.

However, exposure to combustion toxins can be significantly reduced by using a vaporizer. Laboratory studies have shown vaporizers for cannabis to be “an effective and safe means of delivering THC […] that does not lead to exposure to the harmful effects of smoking.”

Consumption Methods Besides Smoking

Compounds from cannabis can also be incorporated into many products that do not require smoking, including food and beverages. The results of these studies are clear and consistent: the risk associated with smoke from cannabis and tobacco is far from equal.

(Featured image by Reza Mehrad via Unsplash)

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