Cannabis use can be more damaging to a smoker’s lungs and airways than tobacco, according to a Canadian study recently published in the journal Radiology.
Researchers at the University of Ottawa and The Ottawa Hospital looked at a series of X-ray scans of the lungs of more than 50 cannabis smokers, more than 50 non-smokers and more than 30 people who smoked only tobacco between 2005 and 2020.
Scientists found higher levels of inflamed airways and emphysema — a chronic lung disease — among cannabis smokers compared to levels of tobacco smokers or nonsmokers, according to Science Alert.
Why does marijuana use have strong effects on the health of smokers?
“Marijuana use is increasing and there is a public perception that marijuana is safe, or at least safer than tobacco cigarettes. But the study raises concerns that this is not true,” Giselle Revah, a radiologist at the Ottawa Hospital, where the research was conducted, told AFP.
Revaha said the differences in levels of inflammation and the occurrence of lung disease among cannabis smokers versus tobacco smokers may be associated with the different ways in which the drugs are consumed.
“Marijuana is smoked unfiltered, while tobacco is usually filtered. When you smoke unfiltered marijuana, more particles reach the airways, they settle there and irritate them,” explained the radiologist.
Revah added that, “people typically inhale larger vapors and hold them in their lungs longer with cannabis, which can lead to greater trauma.”
The consumption of cannabis, legalized in some states of the world
Despite these possible explanations, the authors of the study pointed out that the scanned lungs of some of the cannabis smokers, who also consumed tobacco, indicated unclear results, requiring further research.
Canada legalized the use of recreational cannabis in 2018.
Cannabis use is also legal for recreational use in Uruguay and Mexico, among other countries, and in many US states, while several other countries and territories have recently decriminalized possession of the drug or approved it for medicinal use.