The Link Between Marijuana And Lung Disease

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Photo Credit: Thomas Ondrey

Common sense says that putting smoke, aerosol, vehicle exhaust, asbestos, coal dust, silica or any inhaled chemicals into your lungs (deliberately or not) is going against self-preservation and a healthy body. But humans demand study results before they’ll say what common sense says. And what’s common sense to one person may be nonsense to another.

We have one heart, one liver, one stomach, one bladder — two lungs. We have two lungs for a reason: Breathing is synonymous with life. The respiratory system includes the nose, throat, voice box, windpipe and lungs.

According to the American Lung Association: “To keep you alive and breathing, your lungs are on the clock 24/7, 365 days a year. Breathing 12 to 15 times a minute, translating to 17,000 breaths a day, or more than 6 million breaths a year.” Wow! Our lungs are mind-blowing.

Does smoking marijuana cause lung cancer?

Studies show conflicting results, so it depends on what data you peruse. Not all studies are created equal. While some have found evidence that links marijuana to lung cancer, other studies have found no connection.

Why is it thorny to study the effects of Cannabis sativa, also called marijuana? People who smoke both marijuana and tobacco make study outcomes difficult. Which one caused what? It’s also hard for researchers to set standards to measure the effects of illegal marijuana because people use different amounts and different qualities. Furthermore, it’s tricky to gather information about behavior that’s against the law.

Pot proponents are partying and toasting the following study results:

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine examined around 10,000 academic abstracts (a paragraph about the conclusion) from studies published since 1999. They revealed the subsequent findings in a 2017 report. “Regarding the link between marijuana and cancer, the committee found evidence that suggests smoking cannabis does not increase the risk for cancers often associated with tobacco use — such as lung and head and neck cancers.”

But hold on for the rest of the story from this same study:

“The evidence reviewed by the committee suggests that smoking cannabis on a regular basis is associated with more frequent chronic bronchitis episodes and worse respiratory symptoms, such as chronic cough and phlegm production, but quitting cannabis smoking is likely to reduce these conditions. The committee stated that it is unclear whether cannabis use is associated with certain respiratory diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma or worsened lung function.”

Recreational marijuana vs. medicinal marijuana is another topic. Nonetheless, if a direct link to marijuana smoking and lung cancer is found, like the well-founded link to tobacco smoke and lung cancer, will individuals with chronic health conditions stop using weed?

The American Lung Association states, “We caution the public against smoking marijuana because of the risks it poses to lung health.” However, they advocate for continued research on medicinal effects.

The conclusion from the scientific community is that more research is needed to know the cancer risks from smoking marijuana, if any.

But what does common sense say?

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