Weed smokers more likely to get lung disease than tobacco smokers, study finds

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    A new study has found that weed smokers are more likely to get lung disease than those who smoke ordinary cigarettes.

    The harmful impacts of smoking are well known, but users of cannabis often claim their naughty habit is much better for them than smoking.

    However, a new study from University Ottawa in Canada has cast fresh doubts on these claims.

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    In findings published in the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), they found that people who smoke marijuana are actually at an increased risk of developing lung disease compared to those who just smoke tobacco.

    The researchers compared chest CT scan results from 56 weed smokers with those of 57 non-smokers and 33 tobacco-only smokers.

    They found that three-quarters of the marijuana smokers had emphysema – a lung disease that causes breathing difficulties and shortness of breath – compared with 67% of the tobacco smokers.

    Meanwhile, only around 5% of non-smokers had the same disease.

    Study author Giselle Revah, a radiologist and assistant professor at the University, said: "We know what cigarettes do to the lungs.

    "There are well researched and established findings of cigarette smoking on the lungs. Marijuana we know very little about."

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    The team also found that inflammation of the airways was more common among weed smokers than the other two control groups, while gynecomastia – enlargement of the male breast tissue caused by a hormonal imbalance – was found in 38% of marijuana smokers, compared to just 11% of tobacco-only smokers.

    Revah said: "The fact that our marijuana smokers – some of whom also smoked tobacco – had additional findings of airway inflammation/chronic bronchitis suggests that marijuana has additional synergistic effects on the lungs above tobacco.

    "In addition, our results were still significant when we compared the non-age-matched groups, including younger patients who smoked marijuana and who presumably had less lifetime exposure to cigarette smoke."

    She added: "It has been suggested that smoking a marijuana joint deposits four times more particulates in the lung than an average tobacco cigarette."

    The surprising findings make for grim reading for those who are partial to a spliff, though researchers stressed that studies with a much larger group would be needed before further conclusions could be drawn.

    They also want to look at whether the method used to get high, e.g. with a bong or a pipe, impacts a person's health.

    "It would be interesting to see if the inhalation method makes a difference,” Revah said.

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