New report reveals dangerous lack of public understanding of the health risks of cannabis

  •  Risk of developing lung cancer is up to twenty times greater in a cannabis cigarette than in a tobacco cigarette – yet 88% of the public believe tobacco cigarettes pose the greater risk
  • A third of people believe cannabis does not harm your health – despite established scientific links to TB, acute bronchitis, lung cancer and other health problems

A new report by the British Lung Foundation, ‘The Impact of Cannabis on your Lungs’, shows an alarming disconnect between the public perception of cannabis as a relatively safe drug, and the serious, even fatal impact it can have on the lungs of people who smoke it.

The report – the most comprehensive review of research data yet compiled on the subject – reveals strong associations between smoking cannabis and many lung and respiratory illnesses, including tuberculosis, acute bronchitis and lung cancer. It is also strongly associated with suppression of the immune system and heart disease.

However, new research conducted for the report shows that public awareness of the health consequences of smoking cannabis remains worryingly low, with almost a third of the British population (32%) believing that smoking cannabis is not harmful to your health. This figure rises to almost 40% amongst those aged under-35 – the age-group most likely to have smoked it.

Dame Helena Shovelton, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation said:

“It is alarming that, while new research continues to reveal the multiple health consequences of smoking cannabis, there is still a dangerous lack of public awareness of quite how harmful this drug can be.

“Young people in particular are smoking cannabis unaware that, for instance, each cannabis cigarette they smoke could increase their chances of developing lung cancer by as much as an entire packet of 20 tobacco cigarettes.

“This is not a niche problem – cannabis is one of the most widely-used recreational drugs in the UK, with almost a third of the population having tried it. We therefore need a serious public health campaign – of the kind that has helped raise awareness of the dangers of eating fatty foods or smoking tobacco – to finally dispel the myth that smoking cannabis is somehow a safe pastime”.

In light of the evidence, the report calls for:
• A public health education programme to raise awareness of the impact smoking cannabis has on your lungs and wider health.
• Increased investment in research to further establish the health consequences of using cannabis (particularly in COPD)


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