Smoking Weed, Your Lungs, And Chronic Bronchitis: 3 Things To Know

Smoking Weed, Your Lungs, And Chronic Bronchitis: 3 Things To Know


Photo: Cerqueira on Unsplash

Smoke is harmful to your lungs, whether from burning wood, cigarettes or from weed, which is becoming ever more accessible with cannabis legalization.

While marijuana is smoked using pipes, bongs, paper-wrapped joints, blunts and other devices that heat or vaporize, its smoke is harmful to lung health as it contains the same toxins, irritants and carcinogens as tobacco smoke, according to the American Lung Association.

Research shows that smoking marijuana causes chronic bronchitis. Marijuana smoke has been shown to injure the cell linings of the large airways, which could explain why smoking it leads to symptoms such as chronic cough, wheezing and acute bronchitis.

Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your bronchial tubes, which carry air to and from your lungs. Second-hand marijuana smoke also contains many of the same toxins and carcinogens found in directly-inhaled marijuana smoke, in similar amounts if not more.

However, a study from respiratory experts in New Zealand – which is considering legalizing weed – reports that whereas inhaling cannabis smoke appears to increase the risk of severe bronchitis at low exposure, there’s no convincing evidence that it leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition caused by long-term tobacco use.

COPD caused by tobacco puts people at a high risk for developing heart disease and lung cancer.

Here are three things you need to know about the effects on your lungs of smoking marijuana:

There is a strong association between smoking marijuana and bronchitis

The New Zealand study found that about a third of the people who smoke marijuana at least once a week have symptoms of bronchitis, according to Professor Bob Hancox, the author of the research. This was three times higher than non-smokers.

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Smoking a few joints a day is as bad as smoking 20-30 tobacco cigarettes a day

Other research has shown that he airway changes related to bronchitis in people who smoke only a few joints a day are similar to those seen in people who smoke 20-30 tobacco cigarettes a day, Hancox said.

It is difficult to separate tobacco and weed smokers

The fact that most cannabis users also smoke tobacco makes it difficult to separate the effects of the two. This doesn’t mean cannabis can’t cause respiratory symptoms that have the potential to damage smokers’ airways and lungs. It only means that more studies need to done before coming to a conclusion, researchers say.