Long-Term Cannabis Smoking Shows Lung Function Benefits, While Tobacco Poses Risks in 2023 Study

Long-Term Cannabis Smoking Shows Lung Function Benefits, While Tobacco Poses Risks in 2023 Study

This new 2023 long-term study aimed to understand how cannabis and tobacco smoking affect lung health. The researchers followed a group of people from before they were born until they reached 30 years old, providing valuable insights into the long-term impact of these substances on the lungs.

The findings were quite striking: tobacco smoking, whether with or without cannabis use, was linked to reduced airflow and impaired lung function. However, the study revealed that cannabis smoking alone did not consistently show harmful effects on lung health, even after years of chronic use. This adds to the growing evidence that smoking cannabis does not harm the lungs in the ways commonly associated with smoke inhalation, in contrast to the damaging effects of tobacco smoking.

Note: "Lung function" refers to the overall performance and capacity of the lungs in terms of their ability to inhale air, exchange oxygen with carbon dioxide, and exhale air effectively.

Data are from a prospective cohort study of cigarette smoking, cannabis use and co-use at 21 and 30 years of age and lung function (FVC, FEV1, FEV1/FVC) measured at 30 years. The study finds that cigarette smoking is associated with lung function impairment by 30 years of age. However, there is no evidence to support the notion that co-use of tobacco and cannabis leads to greater lung impairment compared to tobacco use alone. Interestingly, cigarette smoking alone is associated with poorer lung function (FEV1 and FEV1/FVC), while cannabis use alone may be associated with better lung function (FVC and FEV1). These findings contribute to the existing literature on the topic.

The participants in this study are individuals who are the children of women recruited during their pregnancy between 1981 and 1984. The study excluded cases involving multiple births, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths. Out of the initial 7,223 children in the birth cohort, 3,805 individuals (52.7%) participated in face-to-face or written interviews when they reached 21 years of age. These same individuals were then re-interviewed at the age of 30, resulting in a sample of 2,900 participants (40% of the original sample).

The participants completed a questionnaire about their smoking and cannabis use at both the 21-year and 30-year follow-ups, and they also underwent a lung function test called spirometry at those ages.

The study found a clear association between cigarette smoking and reduced airflow, highlighting the detrimental impact of persistent tobacco use on lung function, even in young adults.

However, intriguingly, there was no consistent association between cannabis use and negative measures of lung function. This surprising result challenges the widely held belief that smoking cannabis is equally harmful to lung health as smoking tobacco. 

The findings from this study provide valuable insights into the long-term effects of smoking cannabis on lung function. Persistent cigarette smoking is unequivocally associated with reduced airflow, emphasizing the importance of addressing tobacco use as a significant risk factor for impaired lung health. At the same time, the study offers reassurance that cannabis use does not appear to have a significant negative impacts on lung function, even with prolonged use. These results challenge common misconceptions and suggest that the risks associated with smoking cannabis may be less harmful than previously believed. However, it is essential to note that further research is still needed to fully understand the potential effects of cannabis on other aspects of respiratory health.

This study found that smoking cigarettes can make your lungs work worse, affecting things like how much air you can breathe out quickly (FEV1) and the ratio of air you can exhale in one second to your total lung capacity (FEV1/FVC). On the other hand, using cannabis alone might actually improve some aspects of lung function, like how much air your lungs can hold (FVC) and how much air you can exhale in one second (FEV1).

It's time to set the record straight and debunk the lingering "reefer madness" propaganda that continues to surround cannabis. Despite what you may have heard, research repeatedly challenges the notion that long-term, heavy cannabis smoking is inherently harmful. Decades of research and multiple studies on this topic have consistently shown that extended and frequent cannabis consumption does not harm lung function or lead to significant health issues, and may even offer potential health benefits. It's important to move beyond these outdated unscientific misconceptions and embrace the growing body of scientific evidence that sheds light on the true impact of cannabis on respiratory health.

Study Title: Do tobacco and cannabis use and co-use predict lung function: A longitudinal study
Study Link:

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