Vaping Marijuana Causes More Lung Damage Than Vaping or Smoking Nicotine

Adolescents who vape cannabis are at greater risk for respiratory symptoms indicative of lung injury than teens who smoke cigarettes or marijuana, or vape nicotine, a new University of Michigan study suggests.

The result challenges conventional wisdom about vaping nicotine, says the study’s principal investigator, Carol Boyd, the Deborah J. Oakley Collegiate Professor Emerita at the U-M School of Nursing.

“I thought that e-cigarettes (vaping nicotine) would be the nicotine product most strongly associated with worrisome respiratory symptoms,” she said. “Our data challenges the assumption that smoking cigarettes or vaping nicotine is the most harmful to the lungs. If we control for vaping cannabis in our analyses, we find there is a weaker relationship between e-cigarette or cigarette use and respiratory symptoms when compared to vaping cannabis.”

Boyd, who also co-directs U-M’s Center for Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health, stressed that the findings do not mean that vaping nicotine or smoking cigarettes or marijuana are not bad for you. These products also produce symptoms of lung injury, but not to the same degree as vaping marijuana, she said.

“In short, it is all bad but if you also vape cannabis you have a greater number of unhealthy respiratory symptoms than if you just smoke cigarettes or marijuana, or vape e-cigarettes,” Boyd said. “Without a doubt, cigarettes and e-cigarettes are unhealthy and not good for lungs. However, vaping marijuana appears even worse.”

Boyd and colleague Philip Veliz, U-M research assistant professor of nursing, wanted to explore the association of unhealthy respiratory symptoms among U.S. adolescents currently using cigarettes, e-cigarettes or cannabis and who had vaped cannabis within their lifetime.

Adolescents who reported vaping marijuana were roughly twice as likely to report “wheezing and whistling” in the chest than those who did not. Current use of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and cannabis were associated with some respiratory symptoms, such as dry cough, but most associations were not significant after controlling for vaping cannabis.

The researchers also found that an asthma diagnosis was most strongly associated with symptoms of future lung injury than cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cannabis use and vaping cannabis.

One study limitation is that the researchers did not look at co-use of vaping cannabis and the use of cigarettes or e-cigarettes.

“Future studies need to assess if it is the combination of vaping both nicotine and cannabis that is creating so many respiratory issues,” Veliz said. “It may be the combination of vaping cannabis along with smoking cigarettes is what leads to the high rates of respiratory symptoms among youthful marijuana vapers.”

Boyd and Feliz looked at self-reported symptoms from a sample of adolescents ages 12-17 years, from the 2016-2018 Wave of the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health Study. Symptoms were: wheezing and whistling in the chest; sleep disturbed or speech limited due to wheezing; sounded wheezy during or after exercise; and dry cough at night not associated with chest illness or infection.

Reference: “Cannabis, Vaping, and Respiratory Symptoms in a Probability Sample of U.S. Youth” by Carol J. Boyd, Ph.D.; Sean Esteban McCabe, Ph.D.; Rebecca J. Evans-Polce, Ph.D. and Philip T. Veliz, Ph.D., 3 March 2021, Journal of Adolescent Health.
DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2021.01.019

AddictionCannabisLungsMarijuanaPopularSmokingUniversity of Michigan
Comments ( 28 )
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  • Michael Kuun

    Vaping Cannabis involves using either liquid vape juice or dry vaping actual herb product – the two processes are worlds apart. This article does not touch on which method is being referred to. Its a load of hot air, which really doesn’t say much at all. Highly un-informative – armature hour reporting! Get a real job already.

  • Jonathan Balsazar

    Horrible article, alarming incentive for the use of cigarettes, lack of substantial evidence, the only proof you provided was:

    who reported vaping marijuana were roughly twice as likely to report “wheezing and whistling” in the chest than those who did not. Current use of cigarettes, e-cigarettes and cannabis were associated with some respiratory symptoms, such as dry cough, but most associations were not significant after controlling for vaping cannabis.

    Please refrain from writing research materials as you seem incompetent in doing so.

  • Ron Swanson

    This article, while informative, is unintentionally misleading, as EVALI is caused from vaping *additives* in cannabis oil, NOT from vaping dry-herb cannabis. This is a critically important distinction!

  • Kristof

    As others indicate, this is a very very poorly written article and it seems as an even more poor study. One claim that vaping cannabis is worse…yet where are the actual data results? What was the sample size? How long was this study done for? Did these individuals that allegedly had ruined lungs also use different vaping products? Did these vapes come from the street through a friend that claims these vapes were from dispensaries in Cali? Or were they actually legit cannabis vapes? Would not want that professor as my teacher with such a piss-poor study.

  • s

    Is this article referring to vaping cannabis in the form of oil or dried flower. Which is it? There is a big difference between the two methods.


    Use a dry herb vaporizer please.

  • Christopher Gifford

    I’ve looked into this recently. The vitamin E used in MJ vapes is what is being shown as the harmful factor. This was linked to knock off vape pens carts for the most part. I encourage people to look it up themselves.

  • Rance Muhammitz

    I’ve been dry vaping marijuana for 20 years and I run 3 miles in 21 minutes. (I’m a high functioning “stoner” because I do not drink alcohol and I balance the THC with CBD and CBG.) Dry herb vaporizers, such as those made by Storz & Bickel, Arizer, Dynavap and others DO NOT DAMAGE YOUR LUNGS. There have been numerous studies that prove this. They use a Storz & Bickel Volcano at UCSF for medical marijuana patients. Yes, a legitimate hospital has a dry herb vaporizer as a medical device, because it is one.

    Journalists are mostly idiots. I started a tech site 10 years ago, because as a software engineer, most of the tech journalism makes me cringe. As a medical marijuana patient, most of the “news” about marijuana also makes me cringe. You’ll rarely hear about Dr. Rafael Mechoulam or the “entourage effect” or really anything positive. Stop conflating illegal, contaminated vape cartridges with dry herb and legal marijuana vape pens.

    The headline should be “Vaping Illegal Marijuana Devices May Cause Lung Damage”. The black marketeers likely moved on to some other adulterant. I don’t know. I live in California. I just buy it online and someone delivers it, and it’s fan-frieking-tastic. Best weed ever!

  • Thomas

    Bad reporting…..dry herb inhalation is a much healthier may to consume….ask me a user??

  • Cartohaneya

    Vaping cartridge oil with plastic wicks? BAD

    Vaping CO2 concentrates on a titanium nail at proper temperature in a water filtered rig? GOOD

    Vaping dry herb? GOOD

    Lying and claiming you’re a scientist? BAD

  • Shirtless old man

    Lol where did they get this sample group?

    Finding an increase in “whistling and wheezing” among kids who “vaped cannabis within their lifetime” is a pretty loose link, and hardly is enough to suggest that it’s worse than cigarettes or smoking cannabis.

    Generally people who smoke cigarettes get cancer, or heart disease and that’s what makes them unhealthy. People don’t die from a little wheezing.

    This article is trash.

  • A proud cannabis advocate

    Hey Science, Excuse us if we think you are a bunch of liars bought by Big T. After all, you’ve been lying to us for more decades. i.e. remember the frying egg, this is your brain on drug, where were you to fight that argument with scientific knowledge. Also, remember the opioids crisis? Please use your years spent on a school bench for something more useful for humanity.

  • nick


  • Devon

    It’s articles like this that are the problem with misinformation on the internet. While the study came to a reasonable conclusion, the article author spells it out entirely incorrectly. A very very sad misrepresentation of the hard work done by those who conducted the study. The author should be ashamed of themselves.

  • another guy

    Another here saying the same thing:
    No distinction about vaping what? oils or herbs?
    oils suck, and are for idiots who want to be “cool”
    herbs heal the mind, body and soul.
    Science? NO! cheap clickbait, and biased “scientists” with a pre-defined agenda.

  • OldStoner

    But really no one vapes flower. They vape concentrates like SHATTER, and ROSIN OILS. Americans are like 10 years behind the times because of their resistance to legalize Marijuana. But here in Canada everyone that vapes buys THC cartridges that run about 40%-90% THC in a .5gram 510 threaded cartridge

    • ericd555

      Not correct. Dry herb flower vaping is becoming much more popular as are dry herb vaporizers. People are understanding that vaping flower takes the risk away from cartridges that may contain contaminants and additives.

  • Urinalists deserve death

    We should be able to kill “journalists” for purposefully misleading the public. Shame on you, seriously end yourself.

  • Nadine

    ARGHHHHHH IM SCREAMING….Vaping has 2 very distinct different ways!!!!!!!! WHICH ONE ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT??????? I have the knowledge through my Dr. that dry vaping is really healthier but those chemical pods are causing popcorn lungs. I had surgery last year and one of the pre surgery questions was how I ingest my THC/CBD combo and was instantly relieved to hear I dry vape!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mittens

    It’s not the THC liquid making people sick, it’s the adulterants some black market dealers add into the THC liquid they sell just to make more money. They usually use cooking oil because color and viscosity id similar that of the THC liquid.
    THC liquid usually uses a base of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin.

    The cooking oil will vaporize properly but unlike the vegetable glycerin, it condenses as it cools down in your lungs and builds up eventually leading to breathing problems or infection. Most black market sellers have switched to using propylene glycol because it’s almost as inexpensive as the cooking oil and it won’t kill anyone. While there have been these lung infection cases in every state, it’s far more common in states that prohibit marijuana use as unregulated black market products are the only option.

  • Ur moms a hoe

    Boooooo. Ur trash kid better luck next time.

  • Ninde Jehin

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  • N w

    The problem is that this is the weakest form of study and evidence. Seriously stop with the self-reporting studies. They’re just looking for potential correlations which is a horrible study design and this shouldn’t even have passed peer-review in my opinion, but well there’s a reason why I consider medical and psychological sciences weak and immature fields.

    Find the mechanism and the reason then we can talk. Or at least proof there couldn’t have been other reasons for it with at least a sigma 2 or 3 certainty. This however is pointless especially if you don’t point out a reasonable mechanism for this happening.

    Now I still haven’t learned shit and all of this is possible all correlation but no causation.

  • Tess

    lol @ this comment section! As someone who exercises often and has been moderately dry herb vaping for years without any issues at all, this article is indeed misleading! It’s getting quite frustrating that more people aren’t specifying and iterating the huge difference between using proper hot air vapes with straight up dried cannabis, and using cartridge/pod/pen vapes with e-liquids/concentrates that are potentially laced with toxic additives.

  • Had to stop vaping

    Vaping flower for 5 years had to stop because of wheezing. Not a smoker and only vaped quality bud. Used arizerq.

  • Nonaya busnis

    So why didnt you test for people using all 3 or possible more youre unaware of? What about location and air quality in area. Whay type of marijuana was being vaped and of what type of vape. Way to many varibales for this to carry any weight whatsoever

  • Rod Steamshaft

    Ive vaped cannabis with a mighty/volcano for 10 years now with no kind of lung problems ever I can run for miles without losing my breath. My girlfriend who smokes cigarettes on the other hand can’t walk a straight line without being short of breath, has COPD from it also, also hacking shit up coughing all night can’t breath or catch her breath, from smoking cigarettes. Take it from real world experience this js a paid ad Big Pharma/Big Tobacco all over it. do not believe anything you read on this site! I was a cigarette smoker for 10 years! Haven’t had one in 5 though! Couldn’t feel better