Cannabis is harmful to the lungs, but in a different way to tobacco, causing significant respiratory symptoms such as bronchitis with evidence to suggest it can result in destructive lung disease – sometimes referred to as ‘bong lung’ – in heavy cannabis users.
These are the key findings from a review of research on the effects of smoking cannabis on the lungs undertaken by respiratory specialists, Professor Bob Hancox, from the University of Otago’s Department of Preventive and Social Medicine and Dr Kathryn Gracie, from Waikato Hospital’s Respiratory Department.
Cannabis is the second-most commonly smoked substance after tobacco and the most widely-used illicit drug world-wide. Although cannabis remains illegal in most countries, many countries – like New Zealand – are considering decriminalising or legalising its use.
Professor Hancox explains that much of the debate about legalising cannabis appears to revolve around the social and mental health effects. Both he and Dr Gracie believe policies around the liberalisation of cannabis should consider the wider health effects of smoking cannabis.
“The potential for adverse effects on respiratory health from smoking cannabis has had much less attention than the social and mental health effects,” Professor Hancox says.
“We believe policies around the liberalisation of cannabis should consider the potential impacts on the lungs.