Cannabis and lung health

Regardless of the source – burning wood, tobacco, or cannabis – smoke inhalation is harmful to lung health.

BC Lung is an advocate for strong regulation of cannabis to ensure that the lung health of Canadians is taken into consideration.

We support health warnings, plain and standardized packaging, second-hand smoke by-laws, and minimum purchase age.  

We don’t know all the lung health effects of cannabis use

We believe the decision to use cannabis for medical purposes is a decision between a health-care provider and the patient.  

Knowledge about the long-term effects of cannabis smoke is still limited. Early research studies have demonstrated that it can lead to chronic bronchitis.

Other studies suggest that frequent and heavy cannabis smoking is associated with cough, sputum production, wheezing, and a decline in lung function. It can also cause an immunocompromised person to be more susceptible to lung infections.

What we know is that inhaling smoke of any kind is harmful to lungs, regardless of the source

We recommend avoiding the inhalation of any combusted products. The negative health effects from smoking tobacco are indisputable.

That is because, in addition to the harm that smoke inhalation causes, tobacco products contain thousands of chemicals and dozens of carcinogens.

While the chemical make-up of cannabis smoke differs from that of cigarettes, neither is healthy for the lungs. More research is needed to fully know and understand the effects of cannabis on lung health.

Smoking both tobacco and cannabis increases smoking-related risks to health.

Smoking cannabis by those who also smoke tobacco is of particular concern, as there is evidence that tobacco and cannabis smoking act synergistically to increase the risk of respiratory issues and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you are considering using cannabis

We cannot speak to the potential health benefits of medical cannabis for those suffering from chronic diseases or other health conditions.

People considering using cannabis for medicinal purposes should make this decision in consultation with their health-care provider, and consider a means of administration other than smoking whenever possible.

Bottom line: we strongly caution all Canadians to avoid smoking cannabis due to concerns about the known and potential lung health risks.

Here are some evidence-based resources we recommend, should you wish to learn more about Cannabis and its known health effects:

• Government of B.C. 

 Health Canada 

• Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction

• Centre for Mental Health and Addictions 

Questions? Contact Dr. Menn Biagtan, VP, Health Programs & Initiatives:

Page Last Updated: 14/11/2021