Marijuana has been demonstrated by studies to be safer than tobacco. However, vaping can further reduce risks.
There is some debate on the effects of smoking marijuana on the lungs and other systems of the body, while the dangers of tobacco use are not disputed by any credible medical association. Tobacco smoke is linked with lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. More surprisingly, smoking is also linked to higher instances of bladder cancer, liver cancer, and pancreatic cancer along with a host of other chronic lung illnesses, according to the American Heart Association. Marijuana use, while controversial, has not be linked with these negative outcomes. Those who use both marijuana and tobacco cigarettes would be wise to ditch the cigarettes from a health perspective.
Dangers of Tobacco Use vs Marijuana
Tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals, most of which are added by the tobacco industry. Of the chemicals, hundreds are known to cause cancer and other life threatening diseases. Marijuana smoke does contain some chemicals caused as byproducts of heating the cannabis, papers, or other smoking related accessories. In studies, however, users of marijuana were not as likely to succumb to the negative health complications that tobacco users face.
This is due in part to marijuana being safer, in general, in terms of cancer and lung health, and also due to the fact that smokers who use marijuana in lieu of tobacco typically do not smoke nearly as much on a day to day basis. While a tobacco smoker may smoke up to 20, 40, or even more cigarettes per day, marijuana users typically smoke no more than once or twice a day for recreational users. Those who smoke due to medical concerns and pain management may smoke more often, but for both medicinal and recreational users, smoking an entire cigarette joint at once is not common practice due to the “high” users feel when consuming.
Health Effects of Smoking Tobacco
Tobacco use has been shown to cause lung cancer. It is the primary cause of lung cancers, with well over 80% of all lung cancers being linked to tobacco use. Because tobacco smoke reduces blood oxygen levels and actually changes the structures of the lungs and other tissues, it has also been shown to cause cardiovascular disease, stroke, COPD/emphysema, cancers of many systems of the body, glaucoma, asthmas, allergies, and SIDS. Other health complications may also occur.
Health Effects of Smoking Marijuana
Marijuana use has been studied to determine whether smoking leads to the same health effects as tobacco use. Although smoke of any type is not good for the lungs, and may lead to irritation and trouble breathing over time, marijuana smokers do not seem to be at the same risk of health complications as tobacco users.
That said, a lowered risk of health problems does not mean there is NO risk. Smokers of marijuana are still exposed to tar, smoke, and other carcinogens during each puff. Additionally, marijuana smokers are more likely to breathe more deeply and hold their breath longer than tobacco users, which increases their tar exposure, according to The American Lung Association.
There are some other concerns about using marijuana, however. For instance, some studies have shown that frequent use may have negative effects on the brain and lower IQ over time. Even for occasional users, marijuana does cause disorientation, clouded thinking, slow reaction times, and other potentially negative symptoms related to the “high” marijuana is known for. Some experience depressive episodes after use, as well. Although the feelings associated with marijuana smoking are pleasurable for most, users should not operate vehicles while under the influence.
Additionally, recreational use of marijuana is illegal in most states. Medicinal marijuana is permitted in some states with a doctor’s prescription.
In a nutshell: Marijuana may result in fewer cases of lung cancer and heart disease in users, but there is still some risk. There are also other reasons to avoid marijuana smoking. For those who choose to use marijuana, or for those who use it for medical purposes, vaporizing is a much safer option.