Here are the 6 facts you need to know now about smoking cannabis

6 Game-Changing Facts You Need to Know About Smoking Cannabis

  • Smoking cannabis isn’t the same as smoking tobacco. Here’s the difference.
  • Depending on your health, there can be advantages to smoking as opposed to other ways of ingesting cannabis.
  • Due to secondhand smoke, it’s never a good idea to smoke cannabis containing THC around children.

5-minute read

Smoking Cannabis—Is It Ok?

It’s 4/20. If you’re not into cannabis culture, it’s just another day. But April 20th has become a national holiday of sorts for weed. No one knows exactly when it began. But the lore is that a group of friends started meeting up at 4:20pm to smoke cannabis. Of course, if you’re concerned about your health, the smoking part of cannabis culture might be off-putting. When it comes to tobacco, science certainly supports the conclusion that smoking isn’t a habit you want to start. So, why do seemingly health-conscious people advocate for smoking cannabis? That’s because there are important qualitative differences between smoking different substances. In fact, depending on your specific state of health, there may be certain benefits to consuming cannabis and, specifically, for smoking it. Naturally, this is a sensitive topic that needs more medical research. But here’s what we know now.

Smoking cannabis with a one hitter is especially helpful for microdosing.

Fact 1: There are Advantages to Smoking Cannabis

While there are many ways to consume cannabis, smoking has several unique advantages. First, smoking allows for a quicker onset because the lungs absorb the cannabinoids directly into your bloodstream. That means the effects of cannabis can be felt almost immediately. If you’re battling nausea, anxiety, PTSD, or pain, fast onset can be a huge plus. Second, smoking allows for much greater control of your dosing. Unlike with edibles, you can quickly gauge whether you’ve had too little or too much and course correct. Plus, if you use a one hitter, smoking makes it easier to microdose. When you’re first starting out with cannabis, that’s really important. Of course, edibles and tinctures have their own joys. But smoking remains a popular choice for those of us who want an immediate, controlled experience.

Fact 2: Smoking Cannabis isn’t the Same as Smoking Tobacco

Smoking can, of course, still be detrimental to your health. But it’s important not to lump all smoking together. We have a lot more long-term research about the health consequences of cigarette smoking than we do for cannabis. What we do know is that smoking cannabis has not been proven to cause lung cancer, while smoking tobacco definitely does. Cannabis smoke does contain some carcinogens, like tobacco. But, unlike tobacco, it also contains cannabinoids that have shown to fight against cancer cells. This isn’t to say that smoking cannabis can’t have any negative health impacts. We’re just pointing out that the health risks between cannabis and tobacco aren’t the same.

Fact 3: The Health Risks of Smoking Tobacco are Indisputable

It’s not like you needed reminding, but one of the worst long term effects of smoking tobacco can be cancer. Cancer associated with tobacco most commonly attacks the lungs. Nonetheless, tobacco smoke can also cause numerous other types of cancers. And that’s not all. Smoking tobacco makes you vulnerable to lots of other health problems. Another risk of prolonged tobacco use is cardiovascular disease (CVD). According to a 2014 US Surgeon General’s report, 1 in 4 CVD deaths are caused by tobacco smoke. The CDC puts the long-term effects of smoking cigarettes quite clearly: “Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.”

Fact 4: Smoking Cannabis Doesn’t Pose the Same Risks as Tobacco

Unlike tobacco inhalation, no study to date points to smoking cannabis as the cause of any cancer. Cannabis is a complex plant. It contains hundreds of compounds, many of which interact with our bodies. While the inhalation of any smoke is generally associated with the elevated risk of respiratory challenges, cannabis is different than other plants. That’s because it also contains cannabinoids that can have healing properties. Cannabis is used to relieve pain and inflammation. In addition, some studies have even shown that cannabis seems to work against certain forms of cancer. There’s just not enough research yet to support any definitive claims. But, because of these studies, even the American Cancer Society advocates that we need more in-depth studies to determine exactly how smoking cannabis affects your health.

Fact 5: Secondhand Cannabis Smoke is Dangerous for Children

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) specifically calls out the dangers of secondhand cannabis smoke for children. But that has less to do with the smoke itself than with the THC that’s in it. Since the brain is still developing during the teenage years, the consumption of THC by children can have some devastating effects. Those can include attention deficits, reduced intelligence, cognitive inhibition, and impaired abstract reasoning, and abnormal brain activation. That’s not to say that there might not be reasons when the pros of cannabis outweigh the cons for children. For instance, many children benefit enormously from cannabis as a treatment for epilepsy. Nonetheless, it’s never a good idea to smoke around children.

Fact 6: The Healthiest Option is Non-Combustion 

Inhaling burning plant matter isn’t probably ever going to be risk-free. In particular, smoking cannabis can make you prone to chronic bronchitis. And most of the medical community’s concerns about the health impacts of cannabis, have to do with smoking it.  So, if you’re concerned about your lung health or have an existing respiratory condition, it’s safer for you to avoid smoking cannabis altogether. Instead, just stick to edibles, capsules, or oils.

Weighing the Pros and Cons 

When it comes to the long-term effects of smoking cannabis, it’s important not to lump it in with other substances. The health data on tobacco smoking is clear—there are major risks and there aren’t any health-specific benefits. In comparison, there can be health-related reasons for smoking cannabis. And, like in all things, moderation can mitigate the risks. With the advice of your doctor, you should weigh whether the pros of smoking cannabis outweigh the risks for you.

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