The debate as to the ‘safety’ or otherwise of smoking cannabis has been raging for generations. And it goes without saying that it isn’t likely to reach a conclusion anytime soon.
Personal opinions are all well and good, but what do we really know about the effects cannabis smoke has on the lungs and airways?
Well, the short answer is – not as much as some seem to think we do. We know a few basic bits and pieces, but not enough to draw any concrete conclusions.
So with this in mind, what follows is a basic ‘true or false’ rundown of a few facts and snippets about cannabis and lung health:
True: Cannabis smoke isn’t nearly as dangerous as tobacco smoke
First and foremost, one of the few things we know for sure about cannabis smoke is that it isn’t even in the same ballpark as tobacco smoke in terms of its dangers. Tobacco smoke has long been linked with some of the most dangerous and deadly diseases of the lungs and airways known to man, along with all manner of heart conditions and general health complaints. By contrast, there are currently no indications that cannabis smoke increases a person’s risk of any severe or life-threatening diseases.
False: Cannabis smoke is good for your airways
That said, it is also true to say that cannabis smoke is not considered to be ‘good’ for the health of the airways in general. Any type of smoke that is inhaled can lead to inflammation and irritation – increasing the risk of conditions like bronchitis. What’s more, cannabis smoke contains some of the same toxic elements found in tobacco smoke.
True: Cannabis smoke has been linked with lung cancer prevention
A variety of studies have brought to light evidence that cannabis smoke can both help prevent lung cancer from occurring in the first place, or even inhibit/reverse the growth of tumours. On the whole, there’s evidence to suggest that much of the damage caused to the lungs through smoking tobacco can be reversed by inhaling cannabis smoke.
False: Evidence for the above is conclusive
That said, there currently isn’t a doctor in the world who would prescribe a heavy dose of daily cannabis smoke as something as a treatment for or preventative measure against lung cancer. The reason being that while there’s strong evidence to support its capabilities in this area of medicine, there’s nowhere near enough to be considered conclusive. The available evidence is certainly compelling, but it will be some time before there is any real certainty as to if and to what extent cannabis can be used in the treatment of lung cancer.
True: Vaping is far better for your health than smoking
Last but not least, anyone looking to enjoy cannabis on a regular basis has every option to completely protect their lungs and airways from the effects of cannabis smoke. For example, vaping removes the smoke from the process by carefully heating cannabis to the required level to release the good stuff, without actually having to burn it. And while the long-term effects of vaping likewise remain something of an unknown, it is universally accepted that cannabis vapour is less harmful to the airways than cannabis smoke. And then of course there’s the option of cannabis edibles, which take the inhalation aspect out of the equation entirely.
Research into the effects of cannabis on the airways is being stepped up on a global basis, though it is likely to be many years before conclusive answers can be found. In the meantime, it’s simply a case of letting common sense and your own personal preferences be your guide.