Cannabis And Tobacco Smoke Are Not Equally Carcinogenic

Tobacco has dramatic negative consequences for those who smoke it. In addition to its high addiction potential [1], tobacco is causally associated with over 400,000 deaths yearly in the United States, and has a significant negative effect on health in general [2]. More specifically, over 140,000 lung-related deaths in 2001 were attributed to tobacco smoke [3]. Comparable consequences would naturally be expected from cannabis smoking since the burning of plant material in the form of cigarettes generates a large variety of compounds that possess numerous biological activities [4].

While cannabis smoke has been implicated in respiratory dysfunction, including the conversion of respiratory cells to what appears to be a pre-cancerous state [5], it has not been causally linked with tobacco related cancers [6] such as lung, colon or rectal cancers. Recently, Hashibe et al [7] carried out an epidemiological analysis of marijuana smoking and cancer. A connection between marijuana smoking and lung or colorectal cancer was not observed. These conclusions are reinforced by the recent work of Tashkin and coworkers [8] who were unable to demonstrate a cannabis smoke and lung cancer link, despite clearly demonstrating cannabis smoke-induced cellular damage.

Furthermore, compounds found in cannabis have been shown to kill numerous cancer types including: lung cancer [9], breast and prostate [10], leukemia and lymphoma [11], glioma [12], skin cancer [13], and pheochromocytoma [14]. The effects of cannabinoids are complex and sometimes contradicting, often exhibiting biphasic responses. For example, in contrast to the tumor killing properties mentioned above, low doses of THC may stimulate the growth of lung cancer cells in vitro [15].


  1. maxwood says

    Yes, one important issue is that researchers found cannabis less carcinogenic than tobacco– but the OTHER IMPORTANT ISSUE is only touched on briefly: “burning of plant material in the form of cigarettes”– i.e. “smoking”– to which SAFER ALTERNATIVES exist, including plug-in vaporizers, hand-held Vape Pens or portable vaporizers, and flexible-drawtube one-hitters

    Since the 2007 study of Abrams et. al. showing improved safety of vaporizers, there has been some progress toward converting cannabis and tobacco user populations away from “rolling papers”, but the faster this change occurs, the more millions of lives will be saved (200,000,000 “tobacco-smoking”-related premature deaths since 1853, currently 6,000,000 a year).

  2. norfizzle says

    It should also be pointed out that your typical Cannabis user is not smoking nearly as much plant material per day as a typical tobacco smoker. A pack of cigarettes contains roughly 20 grams of tobacco, which is a very large amount of plant material to smoke in a day.


  1. […] CALIFORNIA: Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of avoidable death in the US, and chronic exposure to tobacco smoke is related to increased incidences of cancer as well as vascular disease, according to the United States Center for Disease Control. Many substitutes have been created to help individuals quit smoking cigarettes, such as herbal cigarettes, e-cigs, vaping, specialized gum, and many other ways. […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *