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Marijuana is Better For Your Lungs Than Tobacco

This week, the Drug Czar announced once again that smoking a joint is as bad for your lungs as five cigarettes. We've been hearing this for years, and familiar as it may be, this popular talking point is just wrong. Research and common sense show that marijuana is actually far better for your lungs than tobacco. Allow me to explain.

Put simply, the research used to claim that marijuana is worse for your lungs than tobacco clearly shows the exact opposite of that. One can simply read the results of the study to see that tobacco scored worse in most categories with regards to its effects on the lungs. The 5:1 ratio comes from the "airflow obstruction" category, in which marijuana did score worse. But that's just one of several categories. Furthermore, the study didn't even say marijuana was 5 times worse in that category. It said between 2.5 and 5 times worse, which dishonest reporters simply rounded up to 5 to get headlines.

If we're talking about the lungs, the two biggest concerns are emphysema and lung cancer. Tobacco scores far worse in both categories:
Emphysema was detected in only one of the cannabis smokers (1.3%), in 15 (16.3%) of the cigarette smokers, in 17 (18.9%) of the combination smokers, and in none of the non-smoking groups. []
With regards to lung cancer, the case for is even stronger. Conclusive evidence shows that marijuana does not cause lung cancer at all, and may even help prevent it.
While smoking marijuana is never good for the lungs, the active ingredient in pot may help fight lung cancer, new research shows.

Harvard University researchers have found that, in both laboratory and mouse studies, delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cuts tumor growth in half in common lung cancer while impeding the cancer's ability to spread. [Forbes]
That's the research, now for the common sense. It should be easy to understand that tobacco users smoke more than marijuana users. That's just a fact, and it has everything to do with the relative harm of each. Even if marijuana were more harmful to the lungs, it still wouldn't matter at all, because hardly any marijuana users actually smoke enough to hurt their lungs. Most don’t even smoke every day. They also quit more easily, thus consuming a vastly smaller quantity in their lifetime. The two cannot even be compared for this reason.

One should never be surprised to find the anti-marijuana propaganda machine turning out wildly exaggerated scare stories about the dangers of pot. But this whole episode provides a startling depiction of how irresponsible and just plain wrong marijuana's critics always prove to be.

So, to recap: marijuana is more likely to cause "airflow obstruction," while tobacco is more likely to cause emphysema and lung cancer. You tell me which one is 5 times worse.

[Via DrugWarRant]
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Slight Error

Actually, I believe the article you sourced has an error in it.

The cigarettes-only group had a higher rate of emphysema than the combination smokers did, according to the abstract from the journal Thorax.

I think that's correct, because I remember reading this somewhere else a few months back, and thinking it showed that pot possibly provided some protection against emphysema. Although, it isn't very statistically significant.


I wouldn't be at all surprised if marijuana protects against emphysema. It's super lame for them to leave that out of the article if that's what the data show.

Beyond that, the article offers the 5:1 harm ratio in the headline, even though the article itself clearly refutes that. It is just so dishonest.

tobacco more harmful than marijuana

just go to webmd dot com. run a search for THC. you will get a list of all the medical research you could imagine proving that marijuana is harmless, beneficial and in dire need of legalization. go have a look.

Holding to Exhale

I guess all the stoners can now "breathe easy". Actually, I can tell from personal experience that pot is way better (and possibly better for a person's health in general) than tobacco. I smoke pot everyday (several times a day, okay like 20 times) and can still manage to run three miles pretty easy, every other day. I couldn't even breathe standing still if I smoked one cig (chronic bronchitis from wet cigarettes as a youth). I know everyone is different but I would say go green.

whose lungs are they, anyway?

Who owns YOUR lungs?

Eat Tobacco! that it is known ,that smoke is harmful to breathing, big tobacco industry must inform the public to eat their ciggies.Nicotine is a drug...with a specially designed delivery system.


why eat tabacoo just smoke it

Not only that....

Many marijuana users don't smoke a whole joint.... they pass it around, which makes it even less bad.

If it were bad for the lungs, who cares? Use brownies instead. Less is lost to smoke in the air anyway :-)


I totally agree even thopugh Ima brag by saying I can smoe a whole joint by myself but anyways omg I once did that brownie thing!!! And I accedientaly got my three year old cousin high. It was cool as hell though

bwah i bet none of u smoked

bwah i bet none of u smoked any kush or nug

Not conclusive, says Dr. Tashkin

Conclusive evidence shows that marijuana does not cause lung cancer at all

Donald Tashkin, the author of the study you site doesn't seem to agree that the evidence is conclusive. This is from an interview in High Times:

I don’t consider this to be a definitive study; there are a lot of limitations in this study. One is that there was a higher rate of refusal among the cases, so there could have been a selection bias. And the other is that the recall of marijuana use could have been erroneous. The patients may have reported that they used more than they really did or less than they really did and that over and under reporting could have differed between different cases and controls and that could have affected the results. So it’s not a conclusive study, but it is, I think, an important study because the fact that it was designed as well as we could to minimize the biases and we failed to find a positive association.

And a little later on:

Well, I think that people who have smoked marijuana a lot and are worried about cancer development might or probably will feel some relief that there is some evidence not supporting that link but I still feel that the heavy smoker might be at risk.

(Emphasis mine.)

It seems that there is some evidence that suggests that smoking pot might cause lung cancer (precancerous changes in the lungs) and other evidence that it might not (absence of lung cancer in the study).

Scott again:

hardly any marijuana users actually smoke enough to hurt their lung

Tashkin again:

We found that smoking marijuana regularly was associated with an increased frequency of cough and sputum on most days. So these marijuana smokers often had chronic bronchitis, about twenty percent of them, compared to about twenty-five percent of tobacco only smokers. They also had an increased frequency of acute chest cold, defined as an increase in cough and sputum that lasts a certain number of days. They also reported more wheezing than non-marijuana smokers. So there’s definitely some impact on respiratory symptoms. When we biopsied the airways, the tissue lining, widespread evidence of injury. Very similar to the damage that we saw in tobacco smokers. I don’t want to use technical terms, but the cells that normally line the airways have a certain shape and they have cilia. The purpose of the cilia is to move mucus up from the lung into the mouth in order to cleanse the lung of mucus it’s produced and we found that the cilia cells were often lost and replaced by non-cilia cells, or sometimes the cells will form patterns that we call ‘squeamish,’ it looks like skin. These are changes in the appearance of the nuclei. These are changes that have been found to be precancerous. They are changes that in tobacco smokers preceded the subsequent development of lung cancer.

The subjects of this study smoked on average about three joints a day. That's more than the average pot smoker, I'll bet, but not so rare that you'd classify them as "hardly any."

Perhaps Dr. Tashkin is part of the anti-marijuana propaganda machine, turning out wildly exaggerated scare stories. But you were the one to hold him up as an authority in the first place.


Lung Cancer


Dr. Tashkin absolutely is a part of the anti-marijuana propaganda machine (he works for NIDA). He was given the assignment of proving that marijuana causes lung cancer and he failed, so his qualifications might be interpreted as an effort to placate his disappointed colleagues.  

Keep in mind that the burden is on NIDA and company to prove that marijuana causes cancer and they've not been able to do so. There's also the Harvard study showing that THC may prevent cancer cells from forming in the lungs to begin with, which likely explains the results Tashkin found. One of things I found "conclusive" about his research was the fact that marijuana-only smokers had slightly lower cancer risk than people who didn't smoke at all.

As for saying that "hardly any" users smoke enough to hurt your lungs, I agree that this was a poor choice of words. "Relatively few" would have been better. 

This seems to be very true i

This seems to be very true i don't really have a cough at all from weed i barely ever cough. But the bad part of that is i never can cough the phlegm out of my lungs so it just sits there it has actually gotten to the point where i have had to quit because of it but its only temporary until my lungs feel better. I've started to run at a gym and every time i run i always have phlegm in my mouth but i cannot spit it out because i am in a public place and cant spit and run on the fly. I've also noticed food tastes better. But i inhaled and always ghosted my hits which i wouldn't advise for anyone to do. Once in a while should be fine but not every hit like i did. I didn't even notice myself doing it until one night where it felt like my lung wouldn't open for air to go into it. Also felt very light headed after that night almost like i was drunk. It was defiantly something that made me want to quit.

Ive smoked everyday for 6-7 months with the occasional day off here and there. But ive got a gym membership now and am working on getting my lungs back to how the used to be.

Disconnect with average cigs per day

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health - "Current smokers aged 12 or older smoked on average 13 cigarettes per day on the days they smoked."

Were I able to smoke high quality pot whenever I wanted, I'd probably average .5 "pot cigarettes" a day.

Which means that the pot I'd smoke would need to be approximately 26 times as harmful as tobacco.

New World--Old World

Tobacco is a New World plant. Marijuana is an Old World plant. It’s possible humans coevolved with cannabis in the Old World in a way that not only created a tolerance for marijuana, but may have become a symbiotic arrangement in preserving health by protecting human neuron cells.

There are chemical tolerance problems among indigenous populations, such as with Native Americans and alcohol, for example, compared to Northern Europeans and their ultra-tolerances to alcohol; no doubt the European ancestors swam in the stuff. Jews often have a low tolerance for alcohol and consequently a low rate of alcohol addiction. Eastern Mediterranean types have lactose intolerance in addition to alcohol intolerance, while pastoral Western Europeans who survived on dairy products don’t show lactose intolerance.

Human tolerance of cannabis would seem to indicate that our species has been exposed to the mighty herb for a very, very long time; longer than dairy products, and certainly longer than tobacco. It’s no wonder 400,000 people die every year from tobacco. Humans might evolve a tolerance for tobacco over the next 2500 years, but at the moment, tobacco smoke may be one of the worst things that could go into human lungs.

Our bodies seem tuned to the plant world in subtle and strange ways. Morphine is a ubiquitous and miniscule constituent of all plant derived food substances, such as milk. That’s right, all you mommies out there who eat green, leafy salads. But not to worry. The chemical cocktail appears necessary.

Our bodies have receptor sites specifically for morphine as well as cannabinoids. Salvia Divinorum affects beta-opioid receptors. Before Salvia, I didn’t even know we had beta-opioid receptors. But they’re far out.

Finally, I want to talk about Moses and the burning bush. Why a bush? And why burn it?

The whole story of Moses makes no sense whatsoever unless there’s something really special about that bush. Maybe Moses burned a lot of bush. He was alone; so nobody saw what he did with the bush. What other bush burns and talks to you at the same time?


Atomize,don't inhale

The ONDCP is starting a gradual,helpful program for the upcoming approval of SATIVEX. It's all about delivery systems.The ONDCP knows about the positive medical info available on cannabis, and will modify it's stand to an anti SMOKE campaign. How else would GW Pharma be able to announce an expected US approval date for it's product, of 2011? A little bird in a bush told me this is true. REDGREEN


So they've been blocking the application for Prof. Craker's MAPS-sponsored growing facility long enough to let a foreign company get their product approved. MAPS said it would take about 5 years for them to get FDA approval.

I know that wasn't your point, but these people are idiots.

Eliminate the Tar and Chemical Fuel

Smoke is bad for lungs.

Vaporize. The benefits are amazing.

Look it up.


hey marijuana is actually good for you> It can decrease the nicotine habit. Marijuana is not an addictive drug.


yeah im all down for weed but no offense who cares bout the health shit.

Marijuana not an addictive drug

Marijuana is emotionally and mentally addictive.







what up


Like Yo Like ayo

Ok so weed is the greatest ever. Omg the GREATEST. tHE OTHER COMMENT I POSTED BECAUSE IT WAS NAUGHTY. so im gonna use good person launguage when I say god dammit weed is not bad It fing rules yo!11 I mean fo real who carews about like all the bad things think of thta delish smell and that great feeling? I could be cheezy and say I have been diagnosed with cancer and I smoke weed every da to relieve my pian, but I wont because that would be a lie. I smoke weed because it rules.



yo dogs


Superior Comment Below

[size=9057]Why buy weed when anime is free...[/size]

Is weed better or worse?


1 joint is as bad as 5 cigs

1 joint is as bad as 5 cigs da fuck!!!


let WEED be a universal language and the whole whole world Shall SPEAK it......jai bholenath.

Smoking Marijuana is better than cigarettes

I have been smoking marijuana since I was 18 years old. I am now 65 Years old and still burning about 3-4 bowls per day. I have no negative effects, so far. All this anti drug Wars are all Bullshit. I live in California Where you can get a Dr. Recommendation for $50.00 if you want. If the Government could make money from the sales they would probably legalize pot.

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