According to the American Lung Association, cigarettes and tobacco smoking related diseases kill more than 430,000 Americans every year. Fifty million Americans smoke, and 3,000 teens start each day. The Berkeley carcinogenic tar studies of the late 1970s concluded that “marijuana is one-and-a-half times more carcinogenic than tobacco.”
There are lung irritants involved in any smoke. Cannabis smoke causes mild irritation to the large airways of the lungs. Symptoms disappear when smoking is discontinued.
However, unlike tobacco smoke, cannabis smoke does not cause any changes in the small airways, the area where tobacco smoke causes long term and permanent damage. Additionally, a tobacco smoker will smoke 20 to 60 cigarettes a day, while a heavy marijuana smoker may smoke five to seven joints a day, even less when potent high-quality flower tops are available.
While tens of millions of Americans smoke pot regularly, cannabis has never caused a known case of lung cancer as of December 1997, according to America’s foremost lung expert, Dr. Donald Tashkin of UCLA. He considers the biggest health risk to the lungs would be a person smoking 16 or more “large” spliffs a day of leaf/bud because of the hypoxia of too much smoke and not enough oxygen.
Tashkin feels there is no danger for anyone to worry about potentiating emphysema “in any way” by the use of marijuana totally the opposite of tobacco.
Cannabis is a complex, highly evolved plant. There are some 400 compounds in its smoke. Of these, 60 are presently known to have therapeutic value.
Cannabis may also be eaten, entirely avoiding the irritating effects of smoke. However, four times more of the active ingredients of smoked cannabis are absorbed by the human body than when the same amount is eaten. And the prohibition inflated price of black market cannabis, combined with harsh penalties for cultivation, prevent most persons from being able to afford the luxury of a less efficient, though healthier, means of ingestion.