Cannabis Smoking in 2015: A Concern for Lung Health?

Chest. 2015 Sep;148(3):596-606. doi: 10.1378/chest.15-0447.


Recent legislative successes allowing expanded access to recreational and medicinal cannabis have been associated with its increased use by the public, despite continued debates regarding its safety within the medical and scientific communities. Despite legislative changes, cannabis is most commonly used by smoking, although alternatives to inhalation have also emerged. Moreover, the composition of commercially available cannabis has dramatically changed in recent years. Therefore, developing sound scientific information regarding its impact on lung health is imperative, particularly because published data conducted prior to widespread legalization are conflicting and inconclusive. In this commentary, we delineate major observations of epidemiologic investigations examining cannabis use and the potential associated development of airways disease and lung cancer to highlight gaps in pulmonary knowledge. Additionally, we review major histopathologic alterations related to smoked cannabis and define specific areas in animal models and human clinical translational investigations that could benefit from additional development. Given that cannabis has an ongoing classification as a schedule I medication, federal funding to support investigations of modern cannabis use in terms of medicinal efficacy and safety profile on lung health have been elusive. It is clear, however, that the effects of inhaled cannabis on lung health remain uncertain and given increasing use patterns, are worthy of further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / epidemiology
  • Lung Diseases / etiology*
  • Marijuana Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Marijuana Smoking / epidemiology
  • Marijuana Smoking / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Prevalence
  • Translational Research, Biomedical
  • United States / epidemiology