As cannabis use continues to be the most widely used illicit drug in the United States, social and epidemiological perceptions about the plant continue to shift and evolve as more people support legalization 1. A 2018 Pew research poll indicates 6 out of 10 Americans support legalization with further studies indicating there is a shift towards favoring the “pro-legalization economic and criminal justice-oriented arguments” over negative implications on motor vehicle accidents and youth health 2,3. One area of concern, especially among many in healthcare, is the common and traditional practice of smoking cannabis. We know tobacco smoking causes cancer—but what about cannabis smoking?
Smoke Inhalation & Associated Toxicity: What Does the Science Say?
Inhalation of cannabis smoke has naturally been a point of contention in the medical community and the risks are often compared with tobacco. But what does the actual science and epidemiological data tell us? Is smoking cannabis really dangerous for you and how does it compare to smoking tobacco? The findings might surprise you! This article will delve into the debate and enrich the reader with the latest and most current research into the health implications of smoking cannabis.
Not All Smoke is Created Equal (And Neither Are All Scientific Studies)
Borne of an illicit enterprise that was once inundated with false, anti-cannabis propaganda, it is imperative that we as a community take the care and effort to set the record straight to the best of our ability wherever the evidence allows us. It has been well established that cannabis and tobacco are often used and misused together and we have also found early studies investigating the harms of cannabis smoke failed to take this into account 4. Clearly, this isn’t a well controlled study design to measure how harmful cannabis smoke can be since we already know that tobacco smoke is associated with the progression of several cancers, including, but not limited to, liver, bladder, kidney and lung cancer 5.
More recent studies have investigated both independent use of both tobacco and cannabis as well as concomitant use and these analyses should be used to cultivate a more complete picture about this topic. Fun fact, however, recent data shows regular cannabis users smoke less cigarettes on average than tobacco smokers alone 6.
Smoking Tobacco Kills, Smoking Cannabis Doesn’t
We know without a doubt smoking tobacco is deadly. In fact, “According to the CDC, tobacco kills more people worldwide than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined” 7,8. Fortunately (and curiously), the same cannot be even close to definitively stated for cannabis, which has repeatedly failed to demonstrate and epidemiological link between regular smoking and the development of lung disease (even upon habitual/long-term use) 9–11. For this primary reason alone, smoking …