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Is Weed Smoke Healthier than Cigarette Smoke?

2 minute Read

The dangers of smoking cigarettes are well documented, and are caused by everything from the additives in pre-rolled cigarettes, to the tobacco and the smoke, itself. But how different is cannabis smoke from cigarette smoke? It’s up for debate whether the smoke is equally unhealthy for both the smoker and those within secondhand reach.

For starters, cigarettes are responsible for more than 480,000 per year in the United States alone, including more than 41,000 deaths from secondhand smoke. On average, smoking cigarettes takes about 10 years off someone’s life. Cannabis, on the other hand, has never been responsible for any recorded deaths, whatsoever.

Breathing in smoke, in and of itself, isn’t ideal, as it could cause respiratory infections and weaken the immune system. That said, the smoke that comes from burning different plants and other materials isn’t all the same. While most smoke is carcinogenic, the gasses emitted from different substances can be harmful to varying degrees.

No matter which substance it’s from, all smoke exposes the skin to free radicals in the environment, which contribute to wrinkles and aging. According to one study, cannabis smoke has been associated with an increased risk of periodontal disease, potentially due to the hot smoke irritating the gums. However, that association may also have to do with certain lifestyle factors.

Generally speaking, cannabis is associated with various anticarcinogenic properties. Moreover, there’s little evidence connecting moderate cannabis use to cancer. According to one study that tracked cannabis consumers who smoked a joint every day for up to 20 years, the weed still didn’t compromise their lung function. Nonetheless, other research has also indicated that smoking cannabis can cause some damage to a person’s airways, but that it’s reversible if you stop smoking. That’s in part why some cannabis users have instead begun opting for vaporizers or edibles.

Cigarette smoke, on the other hand, is responsible for up to 90 percent of lung cancers. One study, published in Harm Reduction Journal found that tobacco smoke and cannabis smoke are not equally carcinogenic. There are two major distinguishing factors between the two: Tobacco smoke contains N-nitrosamines, which are known carcinogens, while cannabis smoke is free of N-nitrosamines. Moreover, cigarette smoke contains nicotine, which is associated with thyroid problems, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes, while cannabis smoke does not contain any nicotine.

While everyone has varying sensitivities to smoke, in general not all smoke is created equal. “Cannabis smoking does not seem to increase risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or airway cancers,” according to McGill University professor Mark Ware. “Efforts to develop cleaner cannabinoid delivery systems can and should continue, but at least for now {those} who smoke small amounts of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes can breathe a little bit easier.”


Is Weed Smoke Healthier than Cigarette Smoke?