Among the mountain of myths regarding the possible harms associated with cannabis use, the fact that smoking marijuana is really bad for people’s health has been heading the list for years. And indeed, there is zero doubt the smoke that arises when combusting just about any plant material, from literally any plant source, including but not limited to cannabis, does contain a significant amount of toxins, as well as carcinogens.
However, according to a large-scale national study on the effects of marijuana smoke on lungs’ health vs. tobacco smoke, “low to moderate” cannabis use was shown to be less harmful than tobacco.
In any case, the correlation between smoking cannabis and smoking tobacco is very deep, as both practices might also re-enforce one other. Smoking cannabis can be addictive in quite a similar sense as smoking tobacco because of affecting the same parts in the brain related to habit formation and the feeling of reward.
Most importantly, despite the complexity of determining the possible health damages associated with marijuana smoking compared with tobacco smoking, researchers have already made it clear that the patterns of feasible abnormalities related to cannabis smoke vs. tobacco smoke are distinctly different.
Marijuana Smoke and Cardiovascular Health
To start with, your body’s cardiovascular function is easily compromised by any kind of smoke inhalation, and cannabis smoke is no exception. Based on recent research, even secondhand exposure to marijuana smoke may lead to similar rates of cardiovascular function impairment, if not even greater rates, than what exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke can lead to.
The thing is, secondhand smoke exposure is capable of impairing the ability of blood vessels to dilate properly. And even though this fact was not a secret when it comes to tobacco smoke, for many years, the same adverse effects could not be confidently attributed to weed smoke because of the lack of research on that matter. Nowadays, however, secondhand marijuana smoke has demonstrated to possibly lead to quite the same impairment as inhaling tobacco smoke indirectly. Furthermore, researchers point out the negative effects of marijuana smoke on cardiovascular impairment to be longer lasting than the effects of secondhand tobacco exposure.
This is the point when it is crucial to highlight that the adverse effects of secondhand cannabis smoke on cardiovascular function are not induced by the inhalation of precious plant cannabinoids or terpenes, such as CBD, THC, CBC, Pinene, or Limonene, among hundreds of others, but it is merely and solely the smoke produced during the process of combustion of plant material that was shown to be harmful on that note.
Since smoking tobacco cigarettes, smoking a joint or a blunt, or simply sitting near a wood-fueled fired all lead to exposure to the combusted plant material substances, standing a high chance of resulting in compromised cardiovascular function and/or other unwanted health outcomes, it is important to emphasize on the devil hiding in the small details. Or in other words, even though we could not and should not underestimate the harms of secondhand cannabis smoke, this is no reason to demonize the ancient herb but instead, it is a good reason to reconsider our relationship and delivery methods with marijuana consumption for the best sake of ourselves, as well as the sake of our beloved ones.
Then again, the very pattern of abnormalities is non-identical for cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke, whether it be secondhand or firsthand.
Last but not least, the cardiovascular impairment we just described above has been shown to be observed even when experts removed all cannabinoids from the plant material. Ultimately, the smoke produced by combustion will never be deprived of carcinogens and toxins, so your best bet is to consider alternative methods of consumption, such as ingesting cannabis, applying cannabis topically and/or vaping cannabis.
Nonetheless, it is also crucial to consider carefully the quality of cannabis flowers and/or concentrates you get to consume through methods of inhalation, as based on how the plants were cultivated, you may be exposing your lungs and heart to worse damage than imaginable because of the possible contaminants, pesticides, herbicides, and/or synthetic fertilizers or hazardous extraction methods.
In short summary, let us emphasize on the fact that “low to moderate” cannabis smoking is not associated with any serious health damage, so if you are a dedicated fan of inhalation methods of consumption, it might be more than enough to simply think of ways to diversify your cannabis intake routine using some of the methods mentioned above rather than quitting on smoking the herb altogether. Plus, Moose Labs just recently released fantastic mouthpieces that come in a joint/blunt format and a dabs format, trapping more than 70% of the hazardous compounds found in smoke through specially designed microfilters.
In the case you have family members who have suffered from heart or lungs-related issues, think twice if it is really worth it taking even the smallest risk to end up in the same lane as your relatives at some point of your life.
Last but not least, apart from shopping for cannabis flowers and other products only from reputable dispensaries, paying attention to the weed producers’ cultivation methods is a MUST. Always pick quality over quantity.
Ultimately, if you happen to live in a state or country where growing cannabis is legal, taking care of your very own garden of green ladies can grant you full freedom and peace of mind when it comes to the ways the plants have been nurtured from seed to harvest, so that you know exactly what gets to enter your body. Whether you are an Indica or Sativa type of person, whether you want to try your hand at growing autoflowers or eager to breed your own strain from regular cannabis seeds, there is a little bit of everything to suit each individual’s taste and preferences. Dealing with a tight budget or having unlimited resources to start growing marijuana In any case, there are many options, so the best way to get a real taste of what it feels to hold the gorgeous, dank nuggets you have watched to grow from tiny seedlings, it is definitely worth joining the ride. Who knows, maybe you are to become the next guru of ganja growing to “Overgrow the Government,” like his Royal canna-Majesty Ed Rosenthal himself.
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Cannabis Smoke Less Harmful than Tobacco Smoke (Scientifically Proven)
After going through the negative aspects of secondhand cannabis smoke, let’s look what is hiding on the other side of the coin, based on the results of a UCSF-lead study spanning across 20 years and evaluating data collected from a total of 5000 U.S. residents.
As pointed out by the paper’s lead author, Mark Pletcher, who is an associate professor at UCSF’s Division of Clinical Epidemiology, the team of experts who conducted the study were “surprised” to find the association with marijuana smoke exposure that they did.
What the researchers did is to measure airflow rates in participants. Airflow rate refers to the speed in which one can blow air out, making up for a person’s lung volume capacity, or in other words, the amount of air an individual is able to hold.
Equipped with a spirometer, which is a common medical devices used for measuring airflow, the team of researchers found out that with tobacco smoking, the more tobacco one uses, “the more loss” a person is to suffer when it comes to both air flow and lung volume indicators, as highlighted by associate professor at Alabama’s Birmingham School of Medicine in the Division of Preventive Medicine and the Birmingham VA Medical Center, Stefan Kertesz.
However, with marijuana smoking, the situation was quite the opposite.
Instead of drastically decreasing air flow rate, cannabis smoking contributed to increased airflow rate. As the exposure to cannabis smoke was increased to a certain level, so was the airflow rate increased.
According to Pletcher, one of the reasons why marijuana smoke was shown to be far less harmful than tobacco smoke in airflow and lung volume measurements may have much to do with the fact that there is a significant difference in the amount of each substance a person is typically to consume. To illustrate this better, tobacco smokers usually smoke 10 – 20 cigarettes a day, while marijuana smokers tend to smoke 1-2 cannabis cigarettes a day.
The Twofold Effects of Cannabis Smoke
Yet another key way when it comes to how cannabis smoke differs from tobacco smokeis all based on the effects of both types of smoke on the immune system.
As many studies have confirmed so far, cannabis possesses anti-inflammatory, as well as immunosuppressive effects, in general. But the twofold face of cannabis is really a fascinating phenomenon, as apart from weed use possibly making up for suppressing the immune system, this particular quality can be used for addressing hard-to-treat disease thanks to utilizing cannabis’ immunomodulating properties that come with fewer side effects than any other substances scientists know of so far.
Cannabis is progressively looked upon as a powerful immunomodulator, bringing great promises to patients suffering from autoimmune disease.
Patients who suffer from various inflammatory-related disease, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and bowel disease, among others, can potentially reap more benefits than harms from smoking marijuana.
But on the other hand, it is vital to highlight that since regular cannabis smoke inhalation leads to damaging airways, regular pot smokers may be more susceptible to particular respiratory infections than those who only smoke cannabis in low to moderate rates.
Cannabis Smoke and Lung Cancer Risks
Based on quite some extensive literature available both online, as well as offline, tobacco smoke has been documented to lead to an increased risk of developing lung cancer.
On the contrary, despite the numerous existing precautions on cannabis smoke and possible lung health damage, including but not limited to cancer, there are actually very few studies to have examined the correlation between these particular risks and smoking weed, apart from the study shared previously in this article which has actually revealed that tobacco smoking is clearly more damaging than marijuana smoking to lungs’ health. Anyway, in the lack of more large-scale studies on the topic, we are unable to drive solid conclusions about marijuana smoke and lung cancer risk, among other forms of cancer risk.
Furthermore, because of the difference in the constituents found in tobacco smoke vs. the constituents found in cannabis smoke, it really seems as if the “odds” are blowing in favor of weed smoke being far less harmful than tobacco smoke, without ever possibly claiming that any of these types of smoke is totally harmless.
The thing is, unlike tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke constituents differ in the sense that some of these constituents actually happen to possess anti-cancer, as well as antioxidant properties, which is the case with active cannabinoids such as THC and CBD.
To a certain extent, this intriguing revelation can explain why studies have demonstrated no significant link between respiratory cancer and smoking cannabis when it comes to low to moderate pot smokers.
But on the other hand, there is evidence, even though quite mixed, when it comes to cancer risks for long-term, habitual, heavy cannabis smokers. Without any doubt, more large-scale studies making use of rigorous, cut-edge methodologies are desperately needed, as few studies have revealed a link between upper airway and/or lung cancer and cannabis smoke, however, these studies were not deprived of many methodological flaws that greatly compromise the trustworthiness of the conclusions.
Above all, cannabis smoke and tobacco smoke share quite some similarities in that they are both not deprived of a high number of carcinogens hitting the body as combustion takes place.
Since cannabis smokers inhale more deeply, and they also hold in the smoke for a particular amount of time that often tends to vary from one user to another, it is easy to conclude that pot smokers are at greater risk of suffering from cancer at some point of their lifetime than non-smokers.
Yet all that being said only barely even scratches the surface when it comes to finding the truth about whether or not smoking marijuana is really that bad for one’s health, and in particular, for posing an increased risk of lung cancer. Based on a still limited number of otherwise well-designed and well-performed epidemiological studies, no association between smoking cannabis and standing an increased risk for lung cancer were discovered.
Furthermore, there is another side to the coin, and it comes from the fact that it is particularly different to clearly assess the negative effects of cannabis smoke and cancer risk rates since marijuana use and tobacco use tend to be quite correlated in many cases.
Not the least, the federally illegal status of cannabis and the marijuana stigma that keeps ruling the world on a global scale, make it even more difficult to study the effects of cannabis smoke in a reasonable, timely manner, using effective, cut-edge technologies.
Plus, it will take time before researchers are able to trace the long-term effects of cannabis smoke on participants, so it really seems that acting based on our personal prudence is the only relevant option we have as of now. At least examples of veteran cannabis smokers like Snoop Dogg give us some hope that it does seem possible to smoke marijuana without getting trapped in the vicious spiral of Big Pharma’s lifetime customers because of developing cancer, lung problems, bronchitis, or whatsoever. Then again, it is the dose that creates the poison, and this immortal piece of wisdom is fully applicable when it comes to the way marijuana smoking affects one’s health and well-being.
Smoking Cannabis: A Short Summary on the Highs and the Lows
The health effects associated with smoking cannabis based on what science has revealed so far are compiled in the short summary below.
- The adverse effects related to exposing one’s lungs to cannabis smoke appear to be significantly lower than the effects associated with tobacco smoking. Nonetheless, the extent of damage is greatly dependent on the frequency of smoking.
- Regular, heavy cannabis smoking habits can lead to physically damaging airway and are also associated with bronchitis symptoms.
- Exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke can lead to impairing healthy cardiovascular function.
- Whether cannabis smoke leads to airway disease of emphysema or not remains unclear up-to-date because of the lack of compelling evidence.
- A solid scientifically validated link between smoking marijuana and higher lung and/or upper airway cancer risks for occasional to moderate pot smokers is also lacking among the rather limited number of high-quality studies available on that matter.
- When it comes to increased cancer risk for long-term cannabis smokers, the evidence isn’t single folded but mixed, and therefore, any related claims remain non-validated as of now.
- Alternative methods of cannabis consumption, such as ingesting marijuana-laced foods and/or beverages, vaporizing cannabis, applying topical cannabis solutions, and/or restraining from habitual cannabis smoking in favor of low to moderate use can greatly minimize any negative effects associated with heavy cannabis smoking.
While we don’t know what tomorrow will bring in terms of cannabis advances in research and technologies alike, we are hopeful that the ancient marijuana plant will keep providing mankind with invaluable implications, many of which are yet to be revealed. There are going to be many marijuana studies reporting on both the negative, as well as the positive findings on that matter, and whether smoking marijuana is really that bad for health or not is just one of the thousands of hot topics cannabis-related. In any case, moderation of use and respect for the green medication can truly take you a long way in taking best advantage of the fantastic benefits of the herb minus the possible downsides.
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