Second-Hand Cannabis Smoke: Is There Really a Reason to Worry?

Everyone knows that second-hand cigarette smoke is bad for your health. In fact, research shows that the smoke you breathe in the air, even if it’s the byproduct of someone else’s bad habit, can affect your respiratory and overall health. But what about with pot? What are the second-hand marijuana smoke effects, and is it something you need to worry about?

If you’re wondering, “are there risks from second-hand marijuana smoke?” you’re not alone. Cannabis and all of the health benefits and risks that come along with it, has certainly been top of mind for people all across the country. As more states legalize recreational marijuana, and establishments are beginning to allow public consumption in select cities, bystanders have something to think about. Even if you choose not to consume pot, if you are near someone who smokes, or you are in a space where smoke fills the air, you might still be impacted by the health hazards of secondhand marijuana smoke.

Experts are Researching Second-Hand Marijuana Smoke Effects

Recently experts are working to uncover exactly what the risks are, and how damaging they can be. Matthew Springer, a biologist and professor in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco, is determined to find some answers.

Springer, who was already doing research on the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke, started investigating how second-hand marijuana smoke impacted rats at his lab at UCSF. He created smoke in an enclosed space from both a tobacco cigarette and a joint, and then exposed an anesthetized rat to the smoke for one minute.

According to NPR, his findings show that “this one minute of exposure to secondhand smoke makes it harder for the rats’ arteries to expand and allow a healthy flow of blood.” Those effects last for about 30 minutes, but after repeated exposure to cigarette smoke, the damage can become permanent, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. But what about the second-hand marijuana smoke effects? Are they the same?

Springer explains, “The same physiological effect occurs after inhaling secondhand smoke from marijuana. And, the arteries take 90 minutes to recover compared to the 30 minutes with cigarette smoke.” Which means that marijuana smoke is three times worse for arterial health than tobacco smoke from cigarettes. Yikes.

Not surprisingly, the amount of smoke you inhale matters. The more smoke you inhale, regardless of where that smoke comes from, the worse it is for your health. Living with a smoker is far more dangerous than sitting near smokers at a concert or bar. That said, any smoke in your lungs isn’t exactly a good thing, even if the smoke comes from a natural substance such as cannabis.

There’s Still Much We Don’t Know About Second-Hand Marijuana Smoke Effects

Cannabis is natural, so how can the effects of second-hand smoke be as dangerous, and potentially deadly, as cigarette smoke, which is filled with cancer-causing chemicals? Well, truth be told, some forms of marijuana do contain chemicals of their own. While more recently strict regulations are being put in place to control and ensure purity and safety of cannabis and cannabis products, in that past that wasn’t always the case. Which means that some pot isn’t actually as natural as you might assume.

And experts argue that the reason many people don’t worry about second-hand marijuana smoke is that there is very little research and little discussion on its potentially damaging effects. While there is concrete science to support the risks of second-hand tobacco smoke, there is little science to support the effects of smoke from pot. And experts worry that “lack of evidence for marijuana SHS causing acute cardiovascular harm is frequently mistaken for evidence that it is harmless, despite chemical and physical similarity between marijuana and tobacco smoke,” as reported in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

But that’s all starting to change. Springer’s research is finding, and proving that marijuana second-hand-smoke comes with its own risks. And according to the CDC, there’s always a level of risk from second-hand smoke.

Bottom line: smoke with caution, and if you do choose to smoke, do so with common decency, taking into consideration the people around you, and how it may impact all of your health.

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