What are the risks of smoking cannabis versus cigarettes? Whether you prefer one or the other, both have consequences. Smoke itself is bad for the lungs, heart, and blood vessels. Whether from burning wood, tobacco, or cannabis, dangerous carcinogens and toxins are released from the combustion of materials. Smoke also contains environmental free radicals which promote early aging and wrinkles.
Studies have not found a correlation between moderate cannabis use and lung, head and neck cancers. A 2015 study found no association with decreased lung function when smoking the equivalent of a joint per day for up to 20 years.
However, cannabis smoke still irritates the lungs, and can lead to the same breathing problems as those who smoke tobacco. These include daily cough and phlegm, frequent lung illness, and a higher chance of lung infections.
Researchers are still investigating the effect of secondhand marijuana smoke on humans. In a 2016 rodent study, rats took three times longer to return to normal function after exposure to cannabis smoke in comparison to cigarette smoke. This study has not been conducted on humans who do seem to more effectively metabolize smoke toxins than other animals.
What researchers do know is that the toxins and tar found in cannabis smoke could affect vulnerable people, such as children or people with asthma.
The CDC reports tobacco smoke causes 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer cases. In the U.S., 400,000 annual deaths are associated with tobacco. Cigarette smoke carcinogens also contribute to colon and rectal cancers. Tobacco smoke contains N-nitrosamines, primary contributor to tobacco related cancers, and nicotine, associated to increase risk of insulin resistant type 2 diabetes and thyroid problems. Cannabis does not contain either compound. Studies are looking at cannabis compounds as a prospective treatment for type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Cannabinoids have shown protective, anti-tumor effects in the lung, breast, prostate, skin and other forms of the disease.
For those who prefer to not smoke, but still want to consume cannabis there are other options. Baked Bros has developed consistently dosed THC Syrups and Gummies to gain the medicinal benefits found in cannabis without the downsides of inhaling smoke.