Smoking cannabis may be more harmful to the lungs than tobacco, according to a small-sample Canadian study published Tuesday in the journal Radiology.
Researchers from the University and Ottawa Hospital studied chest X-rays of 56 cannabis smokers, 57 non-smokers, and 33 people who smoked tobacco only between 2005 and 2020.
Result: They found higher rates of airway inflammation and emphysema (lung disease) in cannabis smokers compared to tobacco smokers and non-smokers.
“Marijuana use is on the rise and there is a perception that it is harmless or safer than cigarettes,” Gisele Reva, a radiologist at the Ottawa hospital where the study was conducted, told AFP.
“But this study raises concerns that it may be inaccurate,” she added.
The higher rates of inflammation and disease in cannabis smokers compared to tobacco smokers may be related to the different ways in which the drugs are used, the expert said.
“Marijuana is smoked unfiltered, whereas tobacco is usually smoked,” she explained.
“When you smoke unfiltered marijuana, more particles reach your airways, settle there and irritate them.”
In addition, according to this expert, “People typically take large puffs of marijuana and hold the smoke in their lungs for longer, which can lead to more trauma to these air spaces.”
However, the authors of the study note that some cannabis smokers also smoked tobacco. Some chest x-rays have also failed, meaning further research is needed.
And according to Reva, there is very little research on the health effects of cannabis because it is banned in most countries.