Comprehensive characterization of mainstream marijuana and tobacco smoke

Sci Rep. 2020 Apr 28;10(1):7160. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-63120-6.


Recent increases in marijuana use and legalization without adequate knowledge of the risks necessitate the characterization of the billions of nanoparticles contained in each puff of smoke. Tobacco smoke offers a benchmark given that it has been extensively studied. Tobacco and marijuana smoke particles are quantitatively similar in volatility, shape, density and number concentration, albeit with differences in size, total mass and chemical composition. Particles from marijuana smoke are on average 29% larger in mobility diameter than particles from tobacco smoke and contain 3.4× more total mass. New measurements of semi-volatile fractions determine over 97% of the mass and volume of the particles from either smoke source are comprised of semi-volatile compounds. For tobacco and marijuana smoke, respectively, 4350 and 2575 different compounds are detected, of which, 670 and 536 (231 in common) are tentatively identified, and of these, 173 and 110 different compounds (69 in common) are known to cause negative health effects through carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, or other toxic mechanisms. This study demonstrates striking similarities between marijuana and tobacco smoke in terms of their physical and chemical properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cannabis / chemistry*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Nicotiana / chemistry*
  • Smoke / analysis*
  • Volatilization


  • Smoke