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learn | 12.20.2019

Is Smoking Weed Just As Bad As Smoking Cigarettes?

Smoking weed, is it as bad as cigarettes? The answer to this question might surprise you, though more research is still needed.

Smoking is not the healthiest thing you can do for your body. No matter the plant you’re toking on, smoking is a habit that, in terms of health, is best to limit. But, is smoking weed just as bad as smoking cigarettes? Emerging research suggests that the health effects of smoking may be more complicated than thought. Not all smoke is created equal, and tobacco and cannabis have some key differences.

Is smoking weed just as bad as smoking cigarettes?

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The short answer to this question is no. For the time being, at least. Cannabis consumption has been on the rise, leaving many public health officials concerned about health risks the herb may cause. Unfortunately for them, research on long-term negative health impacts from cannabis has been inconclusive.

Rather, research on cannabis and long-term lung health has found that smoking the equivalent of one joint a day for twenty years was not associated with lasting lung damage, though smoking does cause irritation and damage to major airways, which can be reversed by switching to a different consumption method.

This irritation can cause bronchitis symptoms such as coughing and excess mucus.

Additional studies have failed to find a significant link between moderate cannabis use and lung cancer, while research on heavy cannabis use and lung cancer has been inconclusive.

This is not the case with tobacco. Tobacco and cigarette smoking is thought to contribute to 80 to 90 percent of all U.S. lung cancer cases, and cigarettes are considered the number one risk factor for the disease.

Cigarette smoking is also associated with increased risk of head, neck, and throat cancer. Studies exploring the relationship between cannabis and these same cancers have been unable to find a conclusive link.

Worldwide, tobacco is associated with 6 million deaths per year. Thus far, cannabis has yet to be identified as the known cause even a single death. The herb is not toxic, meaning that there is no way for humans to fatally overdose on the herb.

More cannabis research is needed

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There is a major caveat to these claims, however. The legal status of tobacco means that the effects of the plant have been studied more than cannabis. Researchers have faced serious roadblocks internationally due to the herb’s misinformed status as an illicit substance of abuse.

In order to get a good look at the long-term health impacts of cannabis smoke, legal barriers to high-quality scientific research would need to be addressed.

Apart from lung cancer, researchers still need to explore the relationship between cannabis smoke and heart problems and stroke, though evidence for long-term negative effects is lacking thus far.

How to minimize risk from smoking

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Though the health risks of cannabis smoking are debatable, the damage from smoking cannabis can be avoided entirely by switching to safer consumption methods.

Edibles are not combusted at all, meaning that you can avoid any potential respiratory damage altogether. But, eating the herb isn’t the only way to cut risk. Here are a few more tips:

  • Switch to a vaporizer
  • Opt for bongs and water pipes if you smoke
  • Use a substantial filter or a screen for any joints or pipes
  • Buy organic, unbleached rolling papers
  • Get regular exercise that encourages deep breathing
  • Buy or grow organic cannabis
  • Buy laboratory-tested cannabis that does not contain residual pesticides or molds

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