Indulging in weed recreationally is relatively safe when compared to taking other substances such as alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, and off-use prescription narcotics. Yet studies suggest that smoking it can pose a significant health risk to your lungs. Here’s a quick rundown of what those risks are, how they occur, and how to avoid them.
Broadly speaking, smoking weed is similar to smoking tobacco when it comes to lung health. The Chinese menu of supposed ill effects includes inflamed cells in your airways (that is, chronic and acute bronchitis), generally diminished lung capacity, and opportunistic infections due to a compromised immune system. It has also been associated with rarer conditions such as air pockets in and between the lungs as well as—gross—mold growth. Most worryingly, studies have suggested that smoking weed may put users at risk of increased susceptibility to emphysema and several forms of lung cancer.
How it Happens
Just as smoke from cigarettes, weed smoke comes from burning plant matter, a proven source of carcinogens. Tar molecules, found in high amounts in weed smoke, pose the greatest risk to the lungs. As well, the amount of general particulate matter may do everything from scarring up your airways, to inflaming your lung tissue, to causing cancer cells to grow.
The above, along with the possibility of mold infection, is wrapped up in what you’re smoking. It’s compounded, however, by how you’re smoking it. While cigarettes contain far more dangerous particles per inhale, each weed inhale is longer, deeper, and bigger. The harder you toke and the longer you keep it in your lungs, the more damage you may be doing to your lungs.
Though many peer-reviewed university studies and bulletins from CDC, NIH, and the American Lung Association suggest that regularly smoking marijuana presents all these risks and more, other reports have found little to no danger associated with the habit. Still, given that the majority of studies suggest that regular smokers can expect lung issues running from the mildly annoying to the fatal, it’s best to act accordingly.
How to Smoke Safely
Assuming the studies are correct, there is simply no fully safe way to smoke weed. Sorry. If that isn’t enough to convince you to stop, however, there are some less harmful options.
First off, ditch blunts and joints, which are proven to kick off the most burnt matter. Secondly, using a vaporizer will cut down on the amount of particulate matter in each inhale. As well, bongs may filter some—but not all—tar out of your smoke. While there isn’t any proof that smoking rosin, dabbing concentrates, wax, or vaping oils are essentially safer (they’re all too new for enough evidence to have built up one way or another), those options do cut down on how much and how often you smoke due their potency.
It bears repeating, though, that the preponderance of evidence suggests that no kind of smoking is safe. The less you do it, the healthier you will be. Instead, may we direct you to the growing array of effective, tasty THC-infused edibles available wherever fine weed is for sale?