Lung Health

In many cases, marijuana is smoked in:

  • joints (hand-rolled cigarettes),
  • bongs (pipes or water pipes),
  • bowls, or
  • blunts (cigars or cigar wrappers that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana).1,2

Smoked marijuana, regardless of how it is smoked, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to small blood vessels.3,4

Smoke from marijuana has many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) as tobacco smoke.5 Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and mucus production,6-10 though these symptoms generally improve when marijuana smokers quit.3, 11

More research is needed to understand the specific effects marijuana smoking may have on lung cancer and other respiratory diseases like emphysema (lung condition that causes shortness of breath) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

  1. Schauer GL, Njai R, Grant-Lenzy AM. Modes of marijuana use – smoking, vaping, eating, and dabbing: Results from the 2016 BRFSS in 12 States. Drug Alcohol Depend. Apr 1 2020;209:107900.
  2. Schauer GL, King BA, Bunnell RE, Promoff G, McAfee TA. Toking, vaping, and eating for health or fun: marijuana use patterns in adults, US, 2014. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2016;50(1):1-8.
  3. Tashkin DP, Simmons MS, Tseng C-H. Impact of changes in regular use of marijuana and/or tobacco on chronic bronchitis. COPD: Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. 2012;9(4):367-374.
  4. Wang X, Derakhshandeh R, Liu J, et al. One minute of marijuana secondhand smoke exposure substantially impairs vascular endothelial functionexternal icon. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2016;5(8):e003858.
  5. Moir D, Rickert WS, Levasseur G, et al. A comparison of mainstream and sidestream marijuana and tobacco cigarette smoke produced under two machine smoking conditions. Chemical Research in Toxicology. 2008;21(2):494-502.
  6. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: the current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2017.
  7. Aldington S, Williams M, Nowitz M, et al. Effects of cannabis on pulmonary structure, function and symptoms. Thorax. 2007;62(12):1058-1063.
  8. Moore C, Coulter C, Uges D, et al. Cannabinoids in oral fluid following passive exposure to marijuana smoke. Forensic Science International. 2011;212(1-3):227-230.
  9. Tan WC, Lo C, Jong A, et al. Marijuana and chronic obstructive lung disease: a population-based study. CMAJ. 2009;180(8):814-820.
  10. Taylor DR, Poulton R, Moffitt TE, Ramankutty P, Sears MR. The respiratory effects of cannabis dependence in young adults. Addiction. 2000;95(11):1669-1677.
  11. Hancox RJ, Shin HH, Gray AR, Poulton R, Sears MR. Effects of quitting cannabis on respiratory symptoms. Eur Respir J. 2015;46(1):80-87.