It’s a well-known fact that smoke is bad for the lungs. From lung cancer
to upper respiratory disease, smoking presents a variety of risks to the
well-being of our lungs. Because of this, many marijuana smokers are
concerned about the effect that inhaling cannabis will have on their
respiratory health, and indeed, there have been some studies linking
marijuana with slightly increased risks of lung
respiratory problems. The issue of cannabis and lung health, however, is
far from simple. Here’s what you need to know about how marijuana
affects your lungs.
Cannabis Smoke and Lung Health
While it may seem logical to assume that cannabis smoke and tobacco
smoke are equally harmful to the lungs, this simply isn’t true. While
tobacco smokers often experience drastic lung damage as a result of
their smoking habits,
data reviewed by
researchers at Emory University showed that cannabis consumers who enjoy
a single joint each day for as long as 20 years don’t actually
experience lung damage. These results change, however, when scientists
evaluate heavy marijuana smokers (more than a joint a day for 20 years);
these smokers often suffer from respiratory
conditions such as
difficult exhalation and inflammation in the lungs.
While the Emory University data seems to discount the risk of lung
damage from marijuana smoke, there have been several other studies (a
and a 2014
respectively) that have found that marijuana smoke does leave tar
remnants in the human lung, although the risk for lung cancer remains
low despite this.
In light of these conflicting results, it’s difficult to say
conclusively that smoking marijuana doesn’t harm the lungs and equally
difficult to claim that it causes irreparable damage. With that in mind,
it’s wise to turn our attention, instead, to how to consume marijuana in
a way that poses as little risk as possible to the lungs.
Popular Cannabis Inhalation Methods and Their Effect on Your Lungs
Because the data on lung damage and cannabis smoke is still quite
contradictory, many dedicated cannabis users have begun to focus on
finding more lung-friendly ways to inhale cannabis. While there are many
ways to inhale cannabis smoke, some are healthier than others.
The popularity of vaporization has risen in recent years due to the fact
that the method is widely considered to be the healthiest and cleanest
way to use marijuana. While smoking creates ash that is hard on the
lungs and edibles often come in the form of sugary treats, vaporizers
produce a clean, streamlined product that is easy to use on the go and
presents a low risk of damage to the body. Vaporizers work by heating
the herb at temperatures lower than the those needed to induce
combustion. Instead of burning, the active ingredients in the cannabis
plant are vaporized and inhaled. This mitigates the risks associated
with inhaling burnt cannabis byproducts.
Pipes or Rolled Joints
There are many cannabis users out there who love the tactile and oral
experience of a pipe or a joint. Unfortunately, if you’re looking to
make consuming marijuana easier on your lungs, these probably aren’t
your best go-to options. Hot, ashy smoke is tough on the lungs, and over
time, aficionados of these methods are likely to experience some of the
adverse effects mentioned earlier. There is, however, a way to make
smoking a little safer. By purchasing a screen for your glass pipe, you
can filter some of the particulate out of the marijuana smoke and
produce a somewhat cleaner product.
For people who still want the experience of smoking without all the
harmful ash and debris, a water pipe may be the way to go. Water pipes
work by filtering smoke through a water reserve before it is inhaled by
the user. In addition to helping cool the hot smoke before it reaches
your lungs, this method also filters particulate and harsh ash out of
the smoke, producing a cleaner product and limiting the material that
can later build up as tar in the lungs. Keep in mind that while water
pipes can’t filter all the harmful particulate from marijuana smoke,
they are quite a bit cleaner than inhaling directly from a pipe or
Dabbing is the process by which cannabis extract is heated and inhaled
as smoke. Compounds such as BHO (butane hash oil) are commonly used.
While dabbing uses extract rather than the whole herb, the torch used to
produce the smoke super heats the extract, making it harsh on the lungs.
This can be mitigated by using crushed ice to cool the smoke before it
reaches the lungs. However, dabbing also presents the risk of inhaling
traces of butane, which is a controversial topic. While it’s true that
butane evaporates quickly, some people report headaches and irritation
in the membranes of their mouths and noses during dabbing.
While the information surrounding smoking marijuana and lung health is
spotty and often contradictory, there’s no question that inhaling hot
particulate isn’t beneficial for our respiratory tracts. Fortunately,
people who love inhaling marijuana can easily make the process safer by
opting for a vaporizer or a water pipe over a joint or a dabbing setup.
Additionally, simple things such as breathing
and getting daily
can help keep the lungs clean and strong.